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‘LE. 


T134h 
HISTORY 


or 


ENGLISH LITERATURE 


BY 


H. A. TAIN HE, 


D.C. L. 


TRANSLATED BY H VAN LAUN. 


SECOND EDITION. 


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EDINBURGH: 
EDMONSTON AND DOUGLAS. 
187 2. 


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TRANSLATORS PREFACE. 


4 fi - ’ ae | 
‘Tue translator has collated almost every passage mentioned by M. 
: verified every quotation, and spared no pains to render this 


* es 


A copious Index will be found at the end of the Second Volume. 
@ a 
H. van Lavy. 


history of English literature worthy of its author and of its subject. 








TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE. 


i an 


Tux translator has collated almost every passage mentioned by M. 
ine, verified every quotation, and spared no pains to render this 
of English literature worthy of its author and of its subject. 


‘copious Index will be found at the end of the Second Volume. 
zz ~ 
a. H. van Lavy. 


October 1871. 








i 


AVERTISSEMENT. 


> -- 


L’autevur de cette traduction élégante et fidéle a pensé que je devais 
indiquer au lecteur l'objet que je me suis proposé en écrivant Phistoire 
de la littérature anglaise ; le voici, en quelques mots. 

_ Une nation vit vingt, trente siécles et davantage, et un homme ne 
vit que-soixante ou soixante-dix ans. Cependant une nation ressemble 
beaucoup 4 un homme. Car, dans une carritre si longue et presque 
indéfinie, elle a aussi son caractére propre, son esprit et son Ame, qui, 
visibles dés l’enfance, se développent d’époque en époque et manifestent 
le méme fonds primitif depuis les origines jusqu’au déclin. Ceci est une 
vérité d’expérience, et quiconque a suivi histoire d’un peuple, celle des 
Grecs depuis Homére jusqu’aux Césars Byzantins, celle des Allemands 
depuis le potme des Niebelungen jusqu’a Goethe, celle des Frangais 
depuis les premiéres chansons de Geste et les plus anciens fabliaux 
jusqu’ Béranger et Alfred de Musset, ne peut s’empécher de recon- 
naitre une continuité aussi rigoureuse dans la vie d’un peuple que dans 
la vie d’un individu. 

Maintenant, supposez un des cing ou six grands individus qui ont 
joué le premier réle sur la scéne du monde, Alexandre, Napoléon, 
Newton, Dante; admettez que par un bonheur extraordinaire, nous 
ayons une quantité de peintures authentiques, intactes et fraiches, 
aquarelles, dessins, esquisses, grands portraits en pied, qui nous le re- 
présentent 4 tous les Ages de sa vie, avec ses divers costumes, impres- 
sions et attitudes, avec tous ses alentours, notamment dans les principales 
actions qu'il a faites, et dans les plus fortes crises de son développement 
intérieur. 

Voila justement les documents que nous avons aujourd’hui pour 
connaitre ce grand individu qu’on appelle une nation, surtout quand 
cette nation posséde une littérature originale et compléte. En effet 
chacune de ses cuvres littéraires est une peinture dans laquelle nous 
la contemplons, Et cette peinture nous est plus précieuse qu’un por- 
trait physique, car elle est un portrait moral ; le poéme de Béowulf et 
les Contes de Cantorbéry, le thé@tre de la Renaissance et de la Réforme, 


viii AVERTISSEMENT. 


les diverses lignées de prosateurs et de podtes qui se succédent depuis 
Shakspeare et Bacon jusqu’s Tennyson, Dickens et Carlyle, nous pré- 
sentent toutes les formes littéraires, toutes les figures poétiques, tous les 
tours de pensée, de sentiment et de style dans lesquels s’est complue 
lame de la nation anglaise ; on y suit les variations de ses préférences, 
et la persistance de ses instincts; on y voit une personne qui subit 
Yaction des circonstances et qui se transforme en vertu de sa nature, 
aussi bien que par l’effet de son passé; mais on y découvre aussi une 
personne qui dure ; l’adulte ne fait qu’ achever I'adolescent et l’enfant; 
la vivante figure contemporaine garde encore les traits essentiels du plus 
ancien portrait. Parmi tous ces portraits, j’ai entrepris de recueillir les 
plus vifs et les plus exacts, de les ranger selon leur date et leur import- 
ance, de les relier et de les expliquer, en les commentant avec admira- 
tion et avec sympathie, mais aussi avec liberté et franchise; car, s'il 
faut aimer son sujet, on ne doit flatter personne. Peut-étre valait il 
mieux laisser ce soin aux gens de la maison; ils diront qu’ils connaissent — 
mieux le personnage, puisqu’ils sont de sa famille. Cela est vrai; 
mais, 4 force de vivre avec quelqu’un, on ne remarque plus ses parti- 
cularités. Au contraire un étranger a cet avantage que l’habitude ne 
Ya point émoussé ; involontairement il est frappé par les grands traits; 
de cette fagon il les remarque. C’est 14 toute mon excuse; je la pré- 
sente au lecteur anglais avec quelque confiance, parce que, si j’examine 
mes propres idées sur la France, j’en trouve plusieurs qui m’ont été 
fournies par des étrangers et notamment par des Anglais. 


H. A. Tare. 
Panis, Octobre 1871. : 








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DEDICATION, 


——>— 


Even at the present day, the historian of Civilisation in Europe and in 
France is amongst us, at the head of those historical studies which he 
formerly encouraged so much. I myself have experienced his kind- 
ness, learned by his conversation, consulted his books, and profited by 
that intellectual and impartial breadth, that active and liberal sympathy, 
with which he receives the labours and thoughts of others, even when 
these ideas are not like his own. I consider it a duty and an honour 
to inscribe this work to M. Guizot. 
H. A. Tame. 













x | 
CONTENTS. 
INTRODUCTION, P P 7 ° ° ‘ s ‘ mg 


BOOK I.—THE SOURCE. 


Cnar. I.—Tne Saxons, . : i 3 : ; a, 38 
Il.—Tue Normans, . . * 2 - ; Z 58 
Ill.—Tue New Tonecvz, - . F ‘ “ 3 105 


BOOK Il.—THE RENAISSANCE. 


Cap. I.—Tae PaGan RENAISSANCE, é e ‘ ¢ « - ae 
Il.—Tae THEATRE, . e ° a 5 - 222 
Ill.—Ben Jonson, . - F . ‘ - 267 
IV.—SHAKSPEARE, ‘i é = . ; a > 296 
V.—Tue CurisTIAN RENAISSANCE, . ° e é - 852 
Vi.—Mitroy, e e “ ° é ‘ . 409 





BOOK III.—THE CLASSIC AGE. 


«- Guar. 1.—Tue Restoration, . : : : ; a 








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INTRODUCTION. 





The historian might place himself for a certain time, during several centuries or 
amongst a certain people, in the midst of the spirit of humanity. He might 
stndy, describe, relate all the events, the changes, the revolutions which took 
place in the inner-man ; and when he had reached the end, he would possess 
a history of the civilisation of the nation and the period he selected.— 
Guizot, Civilisation in Europe, p. 25. 


ISTORY has been revolutionised, within a hundred years in 
Germany, within sixty years in France, and that by the study 
of their literatures. 

*It was perceived that a work of literature is not a mere play of 
imagination, a solitary caprice of a heated brain, but a transcript_of 
contemporary manners, a type of a certain kind of mind.* It was con- 
cluded Sat one might retrace, from the monuments of literature, the 
"style of man’s feelings and thoughts for centuries back. The attempt — 

was made, and it succeeded. 

Pondering on these modes of feeling ons thought, men decided that 
in them were embalmed facts of the highest kind. They saw that 
these facts bore reference to the most important occurrences, that they 
explained and were explained by them, that it was necessary thence- 
forth to give them a rank, and a most important rank, in history, This 
tank they have received, and from that moment history has undergone 
a complete change: in its subject-matter, its system, its machinery, the 

®appreciation of laws and of causes® It is this change, as it has hap- 
pened and must still happen, that we shall here endeavour to exhibit. 
i L 
What is your first remark on turning over the great, stiff leaves 
of a folio, the yellow sheets of a manuscript,—a poem, a code of laws, 
_ adeclaration of faith? This, you say, was not created alone. It is but 
5 a mould, like a fossil shell, an imprint, like one of those shapes em- 
bossed in stone by an animal which lived and perished. Under the 
shell there was an animal, and behind the document there was a man. 
Why do you study the shell, except to represent to yourself the animal? 
So do you study the document only in order to know the man. The 























A 


2 : INTRODUCTION. 


shell and the document are lifeless wrecks, valuable only as a clue to 
the entire and living existence. We must reach back to this exis- 
tence, endeavour to re-create it. It_is a mistake to study the docu- 
ment, as if it were isolated. This were to treat things like a simple 
pedant, to fall into the error of the bibliomaniac. Behind all, we have 
neither mythology nor languages, but only men, who arrange words 
and imagery according to the necessities of their organs and the 
original bent of their intellects. A dogma is nothing in itself; look 
at_the people who have made _it,—a portrait, for instance, of the 
sixteenth century, the stern and energetic face of an English arch- 
bishop or martyr. Nothing exists except through some individual 
man; it is this individual with whom we must become acquainted. 
When we have established the parentage of dogmas, or the classifica- 
tion of poems, or the progress of constitutions, or the modification of 
idioms, we ‘have only cleared the soil: egenuine history is brought into 
existence only when the historian begins to unravel, across the lapse of 
time, the living man, toiling, impassioned, entrenched in his customs, 
with his voice and features, his gestures and his dress, distinct and 
complete as he from whom we have just parted in the street.” Let us 
endeavour, then, to annihilate as far as possible this great interval of 
time, which prevents us from seeing man with our eyes, with the eyes 
of our head. ‘What have we under the fair glazed pages of a modern 
poem? A modern poet, who has studied and travelled, a man like 
Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo, Lamartine, or Heine, in a black coat 
and gloves, welcomed by the ladies, and making every evening his fifty 
bows and his score of bon-mots in society, reading the papers in the 
morning, lodging as a rule on the second floor; not over gay, because 
he has nerves, and especially because, in this dense democracy where we 
choke one another, the discredit of the dignities of office has exaggerated 
his pretensions while increasing his importance, and because the refine- 
ment of his feelings in general disposes him somewhat to believe him- 
self a deity. This is what we take note of under modern meditations or 
sonnets. Even so, under a tragedy of the seventeenth century we have 
a poet, like Racine for instance, elegant, staid, a courtier, a fine speaker, 
with a majestic wig and ribboned shoes, at heart a royalist and a Chris- 
tian, ‘having received the grace of God not to blush in any company, 
Kings nor Gospellers;’ clever at entertaining the prince, and rendering ~ 
for him into good French the ‘old French of Amyot;’ very respectful 
to the great, always ‘knowing his place ;’ as assiduous and reserved at 
Marly as at Versailles, amidst the regular pleasures of a polished and 
fastidious nature, amidst the salutations, graces, airs, and fopperies of 
the braided lords, who rose early in the morning to obtain the promise 
of being appointed tosome office in case of the death of the present 
holder, and amongst charming ladies who count their genealogies on 
their fingers in order to obtain the right of sitting down in the pre- 
sence of the King or Queen. On that head consult St. Simon and the 




















INTRODUCTION, 3 


engravings of Pérelle, as for the present age you have consulted Balzac 
and the water-colours of Eugéne Lami. Similarly, when we read a 
Greek tragedy, our first care should be to realise to ourselves the 
Greeks, that is, the men who live half naked, in the gymnasia, or in the 
public squares, under a glowing sky, face to face with the most noble 
‘landscapes, bent on making their bodies nimble and strong, on con- 
versing, discussing, voting, carrying on patriotic piracies, but for the 
rest lazy and temperate, with three urns for their furniture, two an- 
chovies in a jar of oil for their food, waited on by slaves, so as to give 
them leisure to cultivate their understanding and exercise their limbs, 
with no desire beyond that of having the most beautiful town, the 
most beautiful processions, the most beautiful ideas, the most beautiful 
men. On this subject, a statue such as the Meleager, or the Theseus of 
the Parthenon, or still more, the sight of the Mediterranean, blue and 
lustrous as a silken tunic, and islands arising from it like masses of 
marble, and added to these, twenty select phrases from Plato and 
Aristophanes, will teach you much more than a multitude of disserta- 
tions and commentaries. And so again, in order to understand an 
Indian Purina, begin by imagining to yourself the father of a family, 
who, ‘having seen a son on his son’s knees,’ retires, according to the 
law, into solitude, with an axe and a pitcher, under a banana tree, by 
the river-side, talks no more, adds fast to fast, dwells naked between 
four fires, and under a fifth, the terrible sun, devouring and renewing 
without end all things living; who step by step, for weeks at a time, 
fixes his imagination upon the feet of Brahma, next upon his knee, next 
upon his thigh, next upon his navel, and so on, until, beneath the strain 
of this intense meditation, hallucinations begin to appear, until all the 
forms of existence, mingled and transformed the one with the other, 
quaver before a sight dazzled and giddy, until the motionless man, 
catching in his breath, with fixed gaze, beholds the universe vanishing 
like a smoke beyond the universal and void Being into which he aspires 
to be absorbed. To this end a voyage to India would be the best 
instructor; or for want of better, the accounts of travellers, books of 
geography, botany, ethnology, will serve their turn. In each case the 
search must be the same. ®A language, a legislation, a catechism, is 
never more than an abstract thing: the complete thing is the man who 
~ acts, the man corporeal and visible, who eats, walks, fights, labours. * 
Leave on one side the theory and the mechanism of constitutions, 
religions and their systems, and try to seé*men in their workshops, in 
their offices, in their fields, with their sky and earth, their houses, their 
dress, cultivations, meals, as you do when, landing in England or Italy, 
you remark faces and motions, roads and inns, a citizen taking his 
____walk, a workman drinking.” Our great care should be to supply as 
much as possible the want of present, personal, direct, and sensible 
“observationswhich we can no longer ractise; for it is the-only means 
of knowing men. Let us make the*past present*: in order to judge of ° 





ee 


4 INTRODUCTION. 


a thing, it must be before us; there is no experience in respect of what 
is absent. Doubtless this reconstruction is always incomplete; it can 
produce only incomplete judgments; but to that we must resign our- 
selves. It is better to have an imperfect knowledge than a futile or 
false one; and there is no other means of acquainting ourselves ap- 
proximately with the events of other days, than to see approximately 
the men of other days. 

This is the first step in history: it was made in Europe at the new . 
birth of imagination, toward the close of the last century, by Lessing, 
Walter Scott; a little later in France, by Chateaubriand, Augustin 
Thierry, Michelet, and others. And now for the second step. 


IL. 


When you consider with your eyes the visible man, what do you 
look for? “The*®man invisible. The words which enter your ears, the 
gestures, the motions of his head, the clothes he wears, visible acts and 
deeds of every kind, are expressions merely; somewhat is revealed 
beneath them, and that is a soyl. An inner man is concealed beneath 
the outer man; the second does but reveal the first. You look at his 
house, furniture, dress; and that in order to discover in them the marks 
of his habits and tastes, the degree of his refinement or rusticity, his 
extravagance or his economy, his stupidity or his cunning. You listen 





to his conversation, and you note the inflexions of his voice, the changes __ 


in his attitudes; and that in order to judge of his intensity, his self- 
forgetfulness or his gaiety, his energy or his constraint. You consider 
his writings, his artistic productions, his business transactions or politi- 
cal ventures; and that in orderto measure the scope and limits of his 
intelligence, his inventiveness, his coolness, to find out the order, the 
description, the general force of his ideas, the mode in which he thinks 
and resolves.® All these externals are but avenues converging to a 
centre; you enter them simply in order to reach that centre; and that 
céntre is the genuine man@I mean that mass of faculties and feelings 
which are produced by the inner man.” We have reached a new world, 
which is infinite, because every action which we see involves an infinite 
association of reasonings, emotions, sensations new and old, which have 
served to bring it to light, and which, like great rocks deep-seated in 
the ground, find in it their end and their level. This underworld is a 
new subject-matter, proper to the historian. ®If his critical education 
suffice, he can lay bare, under every detail of architecture, every stroke 
in a picture, every phrase in a writing, the special sensation whence 
detail, stroke, or phrase had issue; he is present at the drama which 
was enacted in the soul of artist or writer; the choice of a word, the 
‘brevity or length of a sentence, the nature of a metaphor, the accent of 
‘a verse, the development of an argument—everything is a symbol to 
him; while his eyes read the text, his soul and mind pursue the con- 
tinuous development and the everchanging succession of the emotions 




















INTRODUCTION. 5 


originator and model of contemporary culture, Goethe, who, before 
writing Jphigenia, employed day after day in designing the most finished 
statues, and who at last, his eyes filled with the noble forms of ancient 
scenery, his mind penetrated by the harmonious loveliness of antique 
life, succeeded in reproducing so exactly in himself the peculiarities of 
_ the Greek imagination, that he gives us almost the twin sister of the 
Antigone of Sophocles, and the goddesses of Phidias. This precise and 
proved interpretation of past sensations has given to history, in our 
days, a second birth; hardly anything of the sort was known to the 
preceding century. They thought men of every race and century were 
all but identical; the Greek, the barbarian, the Hindoo, the man of the 
Restoration, and the man of the eighteenth century, as if they had been 
®turned out of a common mould® and all in conformity to a certain 
abstract conception, which served for the whole human race. ‘They 
eknew man, but not men #they had not penetrated to the soul; they 
*had not seen the infinite diversity and marvellous complexity of souls 9 
they did not know that the moral constitution of a people or an age is 
as particular and distinct as the physical structure of a family of plants 
or an order of animals. Now-a-days, history, like zoology, has found its 
anatomy; and whatever the branch of history to which you devote your- 
self, philology, linguistic lore, mythology, it is by these means you must 
strive to produce new fruit. Amid so many writers who, since the 
time of Herder, Ottfried Muller, and Goethe, have continued and still 

- improve this great method, let the reader consider only two historians 
and two works, Carlyle’s Cromwell, and Sainte-Beuve’s Port-Royal: 
he will see with what justice, exactness, depth of insight, one may 
discover a soul beneath its actions and its works; how behind the old 
general, in place of a vulgar, hypocritical schemer, we recover a man 
travailing with the troubling reveries of a melancholic imagination, 
but with definite instincts and faculties, English to the core, strange and 
incomprehensible to one who has not studied the climate and the race; 
how, with about a hundred meagre letters and a score of mutilated 
speeches, one may follow him from his farm and team, to the general’s 
tent and to the Protector’s throne,4n his transmutation and develop- 
ment, in his pricks of conscience and his political conclusions, until the 
machinery of his mind and actions becomes visible, and the inner 
_ tragedy, ever changing and renewed, which exercised this great, dark- 
jing soul, passes, like one of Shakspeare’s, through the soul of the looker 
on.” He will see (in the other case) how, behind the squabbles of the 
monastery, or the contumacies of nuns, one may find a great province 
of human psychology ; how about fifty characters, that had been buried 
under the uniformity of a circumspect narrative, reappear in the light 
of day, each with its own specialty and its countless diversities; how, 
beneath theological disquisitions and monotonous sermons, one can 




















6 INTRODUCTION, 


unearth the beatings of ever-living hearts, the convulsions and apathies 
of monastic life, the unforeseen reassertions and wavy turmoil of nature, 
the inroads of surrounding worldliness, the intermittent victories of 
grace, with such a variety of overcloudings, that the most exhaustive 
description and the most elastic style can hardly gather the inexhaust- 
ible harvest, which the critic has caused to spring up on this abandoned 
field. And so it is throughout. Germany, with its genius so pliant, 
so liberal, so apt for transformation, so well calculated to reproduce the 
most remote and anomalous conditions of human thought; England, 
with its intellect so precise, so well calculated to grapple closely with 
moral questions, to render them exact by figures, weights and measures, 
geography, statistics, by quotation and by common sense; France, with 
her Parisian culture, with her drawing-room manners, with her untiring — 
analysis of characters and actions, her irony so ready to hit upon a 
weakness, her finesse so practised in the discrimination of shades of 
thought ;—all have worked the same soil, and one begins to understand 
that there is no region of history where it is ‘not imperative to till this 
‘deep level, if one would see a serviceable harvest rise between the 
furrows. 

This is the second step; we are in a fair way to its completion. It 
is the proper work of the contemporary critic. No one has done it so 
justly and grandly as Sainte-Beuve: in this respect we are all his 
pupils; his method renews, in our days, in books, and even in news- 
papers, every kind of literary, of philosophical and religious criticism. 
From it we must set out in order to begin the further development. 
I have more than once endeavoured to indicate this development; there 
is here, in my mind, a new path open to history, and I will try to 
describe it more in detail. 


Il. : 

When you have observed and noted in man one, two, three, then a 
multitude of sensations, does this suffice, or does your knowledge appear 
complete? ‘Is a book of observations a psychology? It is no psycho- 
logy, and here as elsewhere the®gearch for causes must come after the 
collection of facts.® Bo matter if The facts be ph e physical or moral, they 
all have their causes* ; there is a cause for ambition, for courage, for — 
truth, as there is for digestion, for muscular movement, for animal heat. 
ice and virtue are products, like vitriol and sugar ; * and every complex 
phenomenon has its springs from other more sinaple phenomena on 
which it hangs. “Let us then seek the simple. phenomena for moral 
qualities, as we seek them for physical qualities; and let us take the 
first fact that presents itself: for example, religious music, that of a 
Protestant Church. There is an inner cause which has turned the 
spirit of the faithful toward these grave and monotonous melodies, a 
cause broader than its effect; I mean the general idea: of the true, 
external worship which man owes to God, It is this which has 




















INTRODUCTION. 7 


modelled the architecture of the temple, thrown down the statues, 
removed the pictures, destroyed the ornaments, curtailed the cere- 
monies, shut up the worshippers in high pews, which prevent them 
from seeing anything, and regulated the thousand details of decoration, 


‘posture, and the general surroundings. ‘This itself comes from another 


more general cause, the idea of human conduct in all its comprehensive- 
ness, internal and external, prayers, actions, dispositions of every kind 
by which man is kept face to face with God; it is this which has en- 
throned doctrine and grace, lowered the clergy, transformed the sacra- 
ments, suppressed various practices, and changed religion from a 
discipline to a morality. This second idea in its turn depends upon a 
third still more general, that of moral perfection, such as is met with 
in the perfect God, the unerring judge, the stern watcher of souls, 
before whom every soul is sinful, worthy of punishment, incapable of 
virtue or salvation, except by the crisis of conscience which He pro- 
vokes, and the renewal of heart which He produces. That is the master 
idea, which consists in erecting duty into an absolute king of human 
life, and in prostrating all ideal models before a moral model. Here 
we track the root of man; for to explain this conception it is necessary 


_ to consider race itself, that i is, the German, the Northman, the structure 


of his character and intelligence, his general processes of thought and 
feeling, the sluggishness and coldness of sensation which prevent his 
falling easily and headlong under the sway of pleasure, the bluntness of 
his taste, the irregularity and revolutions of his conception, which arrest 
in him the birth of fair dispositions and harmonious forms, the disdain of 
appearances, the desire of truth, the attachment to bare and abstract ideas, 
which develop in him conscience, at the expense of all else. There the 
search is at an end; we have arrived at a primitive disposition, at a trait 
proper to all sensations, to all the conceptions of a century or a race, 
at a particularity inseparable from all the motions of his intellect and 
his heart. Here lie the grand causes, for they are the universal and 
permanent causes, present at every moment and in every case, every- 
where and always acting, indestructible, and in the end infallibly 
supreme, since the accidents which thwart them, being limited and 
partial, end by yielding to the dull and incessant repetition of their 
force; in such a manner that the general structure of things, and the 
grand features of events, are their work; and religions, philosophies, 
poetries, industries, the framework of society and of families, are in fact 


only the imprints stamped by their seal. 


IV. 
There is then a system in human sentiments and ideas; and this 


system has for its motive power certain general traits, certain marks of 
the intellect and the heart common to men of one race, age, or country. 
As in mineralogy the erystals, however diverse, spring from certain 


simple physical forms, so in history, civilisations, however diverse, are 














8 INTRODUCTION. 


derived from certain simple spiritual forms. The one are explained 
by a primitive geometrical element, as the others are by a primitive 
psychological element. In order to master the classification of minera- 
logical systems, we must first consider a regular and general solid, its 
sides and angles, and observe in this the numberless transformations of 
which it is capable. So, if you would realise the system of historical 
varieties, consider first a human soul generally, with its two or three 
fundamental faculties, and in this compendium you will perceive the 
principal forms which it can present. After all, this kind of ideal 
picture, geometrical as well as psychological, is hardly complex, and one 
speedily sees the limits of the outline in which civilisations, like crystals, 
are constrained to exist. 

What do we find, at first sight, in man? Images or representa- 
tions of things, something, that is, which floats within him, exists for a 
time, is effaced, and returns again, after he has been looking upon a 
tree, an animal, any sensible object. This is the subject-matter, the 
development whereof is double, either speculative or practical, accord- 
ing as the representations resolve themselves into a general conception 
or an active resolution. Here we have the whole of man in an abridg- 
ment; and in this limited circle human diversities meet, sometimes in 
the womb of the primordial matter, sometimes in the twofold primordial 
development. However minute in their elements, they are enormous 
in the aggregate, and the least alteration in the factors produces vast 
alteration in the results. According as the representation is clear and 
as it were cut out by machinery or confused and faintly defined, accord- 
ing as it embraces a great or small number of the marks of the object, 
according as it is violent and accompanied by impulses, or quiet and 
surrounded by calm, all the operations and processes of the human 
machine are transformed. So, again, according as the ulterior develop- 
ment of the representation varies, the whole human development varies. 
If the general conception in which it results is a mere dry notation (in 
Chinese fashion), language becomes a sort of algebra, religion and 
poetry dwindle, philosophy is reduced to a kind of moral and practical 
common sense, science to a collection of formulas, classifications, utili- 
tarian mnemonics, and the whole intellect takes a positive bent. If, on 
the contrary, the general representation in which the conception results 
is a poetical and figurative creation, a living symbol, as among the 
Aryan races, language becomes a sort of cloudy and coloured word- 
stage, in which every word is a person, poetry and religion assume a 
magnificent and inextinguishable grandeur, metaphysics are widely and 
subtly developed, without regard to positive applications; the whole 
intellect, in spite of the inevitable deviations and shortcomings of its 
effort, is smitten with the beautiful and the sublime, and conceives an 
ideal capable by its nobleness and its harmony of rallying round it the 
tenderness and enthusiasm of the human race. If, again, the general 
conception in which the representation results is poetical but not pre- 








INTRODUCTION. 9 


cise; if man arrives at it not by a continuous process, but by a quick 
intuition; if the original operation is not a regular development, but 
a violent explosion,—then, as with the Semitic races, metaphysics are 
absent, religion conceives God only as a king solitary and devouring, 
science cannot grow, the intellect is too rigid and complete to reproduce 
the delicate operations of nature, poetry can give birth only to vehement 
and grandiose exclamations, language cannot unfold the web of argu- 
ment and of eloquence, man is reduced to a lyric enthusiasm, an un- 
checked passion, a fanatical and constrained action. In this interval 
between the particular representation and the universal conception are 
found the germs of the greatest human differences. Some races, as the 
classical, pass from the first to the second by a graduated scale of ideas, 
regularly arranged, and general by degrees; others, as the Germanic, 
traverse the same ground by leaps, without uniformity, after vague and 
prolonged groping. Some, like the Romans and English, halt at the 
first steps; others, like the Hindoos and Germans, mount to the last. 
If, again, after considering the passage from the representation to the 
idea, we consider that from the representation to the resolution, we 
find elementary differences of the like importance and the like order, 
according as the impression is sharp, as in southern climates, or dull, 
as in northern ; according as it results in instant action, as among bar- 
barians, or slowly, as in civilised nations; as it is capable or not of 
growth, inequality, persistence, and connections. The whole network 
of human passions, the chances of peace and public security, the sources 
of toil and action, spring from hence. Other primordial differences 
there are : their issues embrace an entire civilisation ; and we may com- 
pare them to those algebraical formulas which, in a narrow limit, con- 
tain in advance the whole curve of which they form the law. Not that 
this law is always developed to its issue; there are perturbing forces ; 











impeded. New elements become mingled with the old; great forces 
from without counteract the primitive. The race emigrates, like the 
Aryan, and the change of climate has altered in its case the whole 
economy, intelligence, and organisation of society. The people has 
been conquered, like the Saxon nation, and a new political structure 
has imposed on it customs, capacities, and inclinations which it had not. 
The nation has installed itself in the midst of a conquered people, down- 
trodden and threatening, like the ancient Spartans; and the necessity 
of living like troops in the field has violently distorted in an unique 
direction the whole moral and social constitution. In each case, the 
mechanism of human history is the same. One continually finds, as the 
original mainspring, some very general disposition of mind and soul, 
innate and appended by nature to the race, or acquired and produced 
_ by some circumstance acting upon the race. These mainsprings, once 
admitted, produce their effect gradually: I mean that after some cen- 

turies they bring the nation into a new condition, religious, literary, 





but when it is so, {ris not that the iaw-was false; but that its action was- 


10 INTRODUCTION. 


social, economic ; a new condition which, combined with their renewed 
effort, produces another condition, sometimes good, sometimes bad, 
sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, and so forth; so that we may 
regard the whole progress of each distinct civilisation as the effect of a 
permanent force which, at every stage, varies its operation by modify- 
ing the circumstances of its action. 


Vs 


Three different sources contribute to produce this elementary moral 
state—the race, the surroundings, and the epoch. What we call the race 
are the innate and hereditary dispositions which man brings with him 
to the light, and which, as a rule, are united with the marked differ- 
ences in the temperament and structure of the body. They vary with 
various peoples. There is a natural variety of men, as of oxen and 
horses, some brave and intelligent, some timid and dependent, some 
capable of superior conceptions and creations, some reduced to rudi- 
mentary ideas and inventions, some more specially fitted to special 
works, and gifted more richly with particular instincts, as we meet with 
species of dogs better favoured than others,—these for hunting, these for 
fighting, these for the chase, these again for house-dogs or shepherds’ 
dogs. We have here a distinct force,—so distinct, that amidst the vast 
deviations which the other two motive forces produce in him, one can 
recognise it still; and a race, like the old Aryans, scattered from the 
Ganges as far as the Hebrides, settled in every clime, spread over every 
grade of civilisation, transformed by thirty centuries of revolutions, 
nevertheless manifests in its tongues, religions, literatures, philosophies, 
the community of blood and of intellect which to this day binds its off- 
shoots together. Different as they are, their parentage is ‘not oblite- 
rated; barbarism, culture and grafting, differences of sky and soil, 
fortunes good and bad, have laboured in vain: the great marks of the 
original model have remained, and we find again the two or three 
principal lineaments of the primitive imprint underneath the secondary 
imprints which time has stamped above them. There is nothing aston- 
ishing in this extraordinary tenacity. Although the vastness of the 
distance lets us but half perceive—and by a doubtful light—the 
origin of species," the events of history sufficiently illumine the events 
anterior to history, to explain the almost immovable stedfastness 
of the primordial marks. When we meet with them, fifteen, twenty, 
thirty centuries before our era, in an Aryan, an Egyptian, a Chinese, 
they represent the work of several myriads of centuries. Fgr as soon 
as an animal begins to exist, it has to reconcile itself with its surround-. 
ings ; it breathes after a new fashion, renews itself, is differently 
affected according to the new changes in air, food, temperature. Dif- 
ferent climate and situation bring it various needs, and consequently 








Darwin, Zhe Origin of Species, Prosper Lucas, de U’Hérédité. 














i 


INTRODUCTION, 11 


a different course of actions; and this, again, a different set of habits; 
and still again, a different set of aptitudes and instincts. Man, forced to 
accommodate himself to circumstances, contracts a temperament and a 
character corresponding to them; and his character, like his tempera- 
ment, is so much more stable, as the external impression is made upon 
him by more numerous repetitions, and is transmitted to his progeny 
by a more ancient descent. So that at any moment we may consider 
the character of a people as an abridgment of all its preceding actions 
and sensations; that is, as a quantity and as a weight, not infinite," 
since everything in nature is finite, but disproportioned to the rest, and 
almost impossible to lift, since every moment of an almost infinite past 
has contributed to increase it, and because, in order to raise the scale, 
one must place in the opposite scale a still greater number of actions 
and sensations. Such is the first and richest source of these master- 
faculties from which historical events take their rise; and one sees at 
the outset, that if it be powerful, it is because this is no simple spring, 
but a kind of lake, a deep reservoir wherein other springs have, for a 
multitude of centuries, discharged their several streams. 

Having thus outlined the interior structure of a race, we must con- 
sider the surroundings in which it exists. For man is not alone in the 
world ; nature surrounds him, and his fellow-men surround him ; acci- 
dental and secondary tendencies come to place themselves on his primi- 
tive tendencies, and physical or social circumstances disturb or confirm 
the character committed to their charge. In course of time the climate 
has had its effect. Though we can follow but obscurely the Aryan 
peoples from their common fatherland to their final countries, we can 
yet assert that the profound differences which are manifest between the 
German races on the one side, and the Greek and Latin on the other 
arise for the most part from the difference between the countries in 
which they are settled: some in cold moist lands, deep in black marshy 
forests or on the shores of a wild ocean, caged in by melancholy or 
violent sensations, prone to drunkenness and gluttony, bent on a fight- 
ing, blood-spilling life; others, again, within a lovely landscape, on 
a bright and laughing sea-coast, enticed to navigation and commerce, 
exempt from gross cravings of the stomach, inclined from the beginning 
to social ways, to a settled organisation of the state, to feelings and dispo- 
sitions such as develop the art of oratory, the talent for enjoyment, the 
inventions of science, letters, arts. Sometimes the state policy has been 
at work, as in the two Italian civilisations: the first wholly turned to 
action, conquest, government, legislation, by the original site of its city 
of refuge, by its border-land emporium, by an armed aristocracy, who, 
by inviting and drilling the strangers and the conquered, presently set 
face to face two hostile armies, having no escape from its internal dis- 
cords and its greedy instincts but in systematic warfare ; the other, shut 





1 Spinoza, Ethics, Part iv. axiom. 


12 INTRODUCTION. 


out from unity and any great political ambition by the stability of its 
municipal character, the cosmopolitan condition of its pope, and the 
military intervention of neighbouring nations, directed the whole of 
its magnificent, harmonious bent towards the worship of pleasure and 
beauty. Sometimes the social conditions have impressed their mark, 
as eighteen centuries ago by Christianity, and twenty-five centuries 
ago by Buddhism, when around the Mediterranean, as in Hindoostan; 
the extreme results of Aryan conquest and civilisation induced an 
intolerable oppression, the subjugation of the individual, utter despair, 
a curse upon the world, with the development of metaphysics and 
myth, so that man in this dungeon of misery, feeling his heart softened, 
begot the idea of abnegation, charity, tender love, gentleness, humility, 
brotherly love—there, in a notion of universal nothingness, here under 
the Fatherhood of God. Look around you upon the regulating in- 
stincts and faculties implanted in a race—in short, the mood of intelli- 
gence in which it thinks and acts at the present time: you will discover 
most often the work of some one of these prolonged situations, these 
surrounding circumstances, persistent and gigantic pressures, brought to 
bear upon an aggregate of men who, singly and together, from genera- 
tion to generation, are continually moulded and modelled by their 
action; in Spain, an eight-century crusade against the Mussulmans, 
protracted even beyond and until the exhaustion of the nation by the 
expulsion of the Moors, the spoliation of the Jews, the establishment of 
the Inquisition, the Catholic wars ; in England, a political establishment 
of eight centuries, which keeps a man erect and respectful, in indepen- 
dence and obedience, and accustoms him to strive unitedly, under the 
authority of the law; in France, a Latin organisation, which, imposed 
first upon docile barbarians, then shattered in the universal crash, 
is reformed from within under a lurking conspiracy of the national 
instinct, is developed under hereditary kings, ends in a sort of egality- 
republic, centralised, administrative, under dynasties exposed to revo- 
lution. These are the most efficacious of the visible causes which 
mould the primitive man: they are to nations what education, career, 
condition, abode, are to individuals; and they seem to comprehend every- 
thing, since they comprehend all external powers which shape human 
matter, and by which the external acts on the internal. 

There is yet a third rank of causes; for, with the forces within and 
without, there is the work which they have already produced together, 
and this work itself contributes to produce that which follows. Beside 
_ the permanent impulse and the given surroundings, there is the ac- 
quired momentum. When the national character and surrounding 
circumstances operate, it is not upon a tabula rasa, but on a ground 
on which marks are already impressed. According as one takes the 
ground at one moment or another, the imprint is different ; and this is 
the cause that the total effect is different. Consider, for instance, two 
epochs of a literature or an art,—French tragedy under Corneille and 





~ 


INTRODUCTION. 13 


under Voltaire, the Greek drama under Zschylus and under Euripides, 
Italian painting under da Vinci and under Guido. Truly, at either of 
these two extreme points the general idea has not changed ; it is always 
the same human type which is its subject of representation or painting ; 
the mould of verse, the structure of the drama, the form of body has 
endured. But among several differences there is this, that the one 
artist is the precursor, the other the successor ; the first has no model, 
the second has; the first sees objects face to face, the second sees them 
through the first; that many great branches of art are lost, many 
details are perfected, that simplicity and grandeur of impression have 
diminished, pleasing and refined forms have increased,—in short, that 
the first work has outlived the second. So it is with a people as with 
a plant; the same sap, under the same temperature, and in the same 
soil, produces, at different steps of its progressive development, different 
formations, buds, flowers, fruits, seed-vessels, in such a manner that the 
one which follows has always the first for its condition, and grows from 
its death. And if now you consider no longer a brief epoch, as our 
own time, but one of those wide intervals which embrace one or more 
centuries, like the middle ages, or our last classic age, the conclusion 
will be similar. A certain dominant idea has had sway; men, for two, 
for five hundred years, have taken to themselves a certain ideal model 
of man: in the middle ages, the knight and the monk ; in our classic 
age, the courtier, the man who speaks well. This creative and universal 
idea is displayed over the whole field of action and thought; and after 
covering the world with its works, involuntarily systematic, it has 
faded, it has died away, and lo, a new idea springs up, destined to a 


like domination, and the like number of creations. And here re- 


méimber that the second depends in part upon the first, and that the 
first, uniting its effect with those of national genius and surrounding 
circumstances, imposes on each new creation its bent and direction. 
The great historical currents are formed after this law—the long domi- 
nations of one intellectual pattern, or a master idea, such as the period 
of spontaneous creations called the Renaissance, or the period of ora- 
torical models called the Classical Age, or the series of mystical com- 
positions called the Alexandrian and Christian eras, or the series of 
mythological efflorescences which we meet with in the infancy of the 
German people, of the Indian and the Greek. Here as elsewhere we 
have but @ mechanical problem; the total effect is a result, depending 
entirely on the magnitude and direction of the producing causes, The 
only difference which separates these moral problems from physical ones 
is, that the magnitude and direction cannot be valued or computed in 
the first as in the second. If a need or a faculty is a quantity, capable 
of degrees, like a pressure or a weight, this quantity is not measurable 
like the pressure or the weight. We cannot define it in an exact or 
approximative formula; we cannot have more, or give more, in respect 
of it, than a literary impression; we are limited to marking and quot- 


— 


‘14 _ INTRODUCTION. 


ing the salient points by which it is manifested, and which indicate — 
approximately and roughly the part of the scale which is its position. 
But though the means of notation are not the same in the moral and 
physical sciences, yet as in both the matter is the same, equally made 
up of forces, magnitudes, and directions, we may say that in both the 
final result is produced after the same method. It is great or small, as 
the fundamental forces are great or small and act more or less exactly 
in the same sense, according as the distinct effects of race, circum- 
stance, and epoch combine to add the one to the other, or to annul 
one another. Thus are explained the long impotences and the brilliant 
triumphs which make their appearance irregularly and without visible 
cause in the life of a people; they are caused by internal concords or con- 
trarieties. There was such a concord when in the seventeenth century 
the sociable character and the conversational aptitude, innate in France, 
encountered the drawing-room manners and the epoch of oratorical ana- 
lysis; when in the nineteenth century the profound and elastic genius of 
Germany encountered the age of philosophical compositions and of cos- 
mopolitan criticism. There was such a contrariety when in the seven- 
teenth century the rude and lonely English genius tried blunderingly to 
adopt a novel politeness; when in the sixteenth century the lucid and 
prosaic French spirit tried vainly to cradle a living poetry. That 
hidden concord of creative forces produced the finished urbanity and 
the noble and regular literature under Louis xiv. and Bossuet, the 
grand metaphysics and broad critical sympathy of Hegel and Goethe. 
That hidden contrariety of creative forces produced the imperfect 
literature, the scandalous comedy, the abortive drama under Dryden 
and Wycherley, the vile Greek importations, the groping elaborate 
efforts, the scant half-graces under Ronsard and the Pleiad. So much 
we can say with confidence, that the unknown creations towards which 
the current of the centuries conducts us, will be raised up and regu- 
lated altogether by the three primordial forces; that if these forces 
could be measured and computed, one might deduce from them as 
from a formula the specialties of future civilisation; and that if, in spite 
of the evident crudeness of our notations, and the fundamental inexact- 
ness of our measures, we try now to form some idea of our general 
destiny, it is upon an examination of these forces that we must ground 
our prophecy. For in enumerating them, we traverse the complete 
circle of the agencies; and when we have considered race, circumstance, 
and epoch, which are the internal mainsprings, the external pressure, 
and the acquired momentum, we have exhausted not only the whole of 
the actual causes, but also the whole of the possible causes of motion. 


VI. 


It remains for us to examine how these causes, when applied to a 
nation or an age, produce their results. As a rivulet falling from a 
height spreads its streams, according to the depth of the descent, stage 








’ INTRODUCTION, 15 


after stage, until it reaches the lowest level of the soil, so the disposi- 
tion of intellect or soul impressed on a people by race, circumstance, or 

spreads in different proportions and by regular descents, down 
the diverse orders of facts which make up its civilisation.t If we 
arrange the map of a country, starting from the watershed, we find 
that below this common point the streams are divided into five or six 
principal basins, then each of these into several secondary basins, and 
so on, until the whole country with its thousand details is included in 
the ramifications of this network. So, if we arrange the psychological 
map of the events and sensations of a human civilisation, we find first 
of all five or six well-defined provinces—religion, art, philosophy, the 
state, the family, the industries; then in each of these provinces natural 
departments ; and in each of these, smaller territories, until we arrive 
at the numberless details of life such as may be observed within and 
around us every day. If now we examine and compare these diverse 
groups of facts, we find first of all that they are made up of parts, and 
that all have Siew in common. Let us take first the three chief works _ 


of human intelli on, hilosophy. What isa philosophy — 
Sar Soca @ conception mo EE: its primordial causes, under the pe 
of abstractions and formularies? What is there at the bottom of a 
religion or of an art but a conception of this same nature and of these 
same causes, under form of symbols more or less concise, and person- 
ages more or less marked; with this difference, that in the first we 
believe that they exist, in the second we believe that they do not 
exist? Let the reader consider a few of the great creations of the 
intelligence in India, Scandinavia, Persia, Rome, Greece, and he will 
see that, throughout, art is axind of philosophy made sensible, religion 
a poem taken for true, philosophy an art and a religion dried up, and 
reduced to simple ideas. There is therefore, at the core of each of 
these three groups, a common element, the conception of the world and 
its principles; and if they differ among themselves, it is because each 
combines with the common, a distinct element: now the power of 
abstraction, again the power to personify and to believe, and finally 
the power to personify and not believe. Let us now take the two chief 
works of human association, the family and the state. What forms the 
state but a sentiment of obedience, by which the many unite under the 
authority of a chief? And what forms the family but the sentiment of 
_ Obedience, by which wife and children act under the direction of a father 
and husband? The family is a natural state, primitive and restrained, 
as the state is an artificial family, ulterior and expanded ; and amongst 
the differences arising from the number, origin, and condition of its 
members, we discover in the small society as in the great, a like dis- 

1 For this scale of co-ordingte effects, consult Renan, Langues Sémitiques, ch. i.; 
Mommsen, Comparison between the Greek and Roman Ciwilisations, ch. ii. vol. i. 
Sd ed. ; Tocqueville, Conséquences de la Démocratie en Amérique, vol. iii. 





16 INTRODUCTION. 


position of the fundamental intelligence which assimilates and unites. 
them. Now suppose that this element receives from circumstance,. 
race, or epoch certain special marks, it is clear that all the groups into 
which it enters, will be modified proportionately. If the sentiment of 
obedience is merely fear,’ you will find, as in most Oriental states, a 
all brutal despotism, exaggerated punishment, oppression of the subject, 
servility of manners, insecurity of property, an impoverished produc- 
tion, the slavery of women, and the customs of the harem. If the 
sentiment of obedience has its root in the instinct of order, sociality, 
and honour, you will find, as in France, a perfect military organisation, 
a fine administrative hicagrchy, a want of public spirit with occasional 
jerks of patriotism, ready docility of the subject with a revolutionary 
impatience, the cringing courtier with the counter-efforts of the genuine 
man, the refined sympathy between conversation and society on the one 
hand, and the worry at the fireside and among the family on the other,. 
the equality of the married with the incompleteness of the married 
state, under the necessary constraint of the law. If, again, the senti-. 
ment of obedience has its root in the instinct of subordination and. 
the idea of duty, you will find, as among the Germans, security and 
happiness in the household, a solid basis of domestic life, a tardy and 
incomplete development of society, an innate respect for established 
dignities, a superstitious reverence for the past, the keeping up of 
social inequalities, natural and habitual regard for the law. So ina 
race, according as the aptitude for general ideas varies, religion, art, 
and philosophy vary. If man is naturally inclined to the widest uni- 
versal conceptions, and apt to disturb them at the same time by the 
nervous delicacy of his over-sensitive organisation, you will find, as in 
India, an astonishing abundance of gigantic religious creations, a glow- 
ing outgrowth of vast and transparent epic poems, a strange tangle of 
subtle and imaginative philosophies, all so well interwoven, and so 
penetrated with a common essence, as to be instantly recognised, by 
their breadth, their colouring, and their want of order, as the products 
of the same climate and the same intelligence. If, on the other hand, a 
man naturally staid and balanced in mind limits of his own accord the 
scope of his ideas, in order the better to define their form, you will 
find, as in Greece, a theology of artists and tale-tellers; distinctive gods, 
soon considered distinct from things, and transformed, almost at the 
outset, into recognised personages; the sentiment of universal unity all 
but effaced, and barely preserved in the vague notion of Destiny; a 
philosophy rather close and delicate than grand and systematic, con- 
fined to a lofty metaphysics? but incomparable for logic, sophistry, 





1 Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, Principes des trois gouvernements. 

2 The Alexandrian philosophy had its birth from the West. The metaphysical 
notions of Aristotle are isolated ; moreover, with him as with Plato, they are but 
asketch. By way of contrast consider the systematic vigour of Plotinus, Proclus, 








INTRODUCTION, 17 


and morals ; poetry and arts superior for clearness, spirit, scope, truth, 
and beauty to all that have ever been known. If, once more, man, 
reduced to narrow conceptions, and deprived of all speculative refine- 
ment, is at the same time altogether absorbed and straitened by 
practical occupations, you will find, as in Rome, rudimentary deities, 
mere hollow names, serving to designate the trivial details of agri- 
culture, generation, household concerns, etiquettes in fact of marriage, 
of the farm, producing a mythology, a philosophy, a poetry, either 
worth nothing or borrowed. Here, as everywhere, the law of mutual 
dependence’ comes into play. A civilisation forms a body, and its 
parts are connected with each other like the parts of an organic body. 
As in an animal, instincts, teeth, limbs, osseous structure, muscular 
envelope, are mutually connected, so that a change in one produces a 
corresponding change in the rest, and a clever naturalist can by a 
process of reasoning reconstruct out of a few fragments almost the 
whole body; even so in a civilisation, religion, philosophy, the 
organisation of the family, literature, the arts, make up a system 
in which every local change induces a general change, so that an 
experienced historian, studying some particular part of it, sees in ad- 
vance and half predicts the character of the rest. There is nothing 
vague in this interdependence. In the living body the regulator 
is, first, its tendency to manifest a certain primary type; then its 
necessity for organs whereby to satisfy its wants, and for harmony with 
itself in order that it may live. In a civilisation, the regulator is the 
presence, in every great human creation, of a productive element, 
present also in other surrounding creations,—to wit, some faculty, 
aptitude, disposition, effective and discernible, which, being possessed 
of its proper character, introduces it into all the operations in which 
it assists, and, according to its variations, causes all the works in which 
it co-operates to vary also, 


VIL. 

At this point we can obtain a glimpse of the principal features of 
human transformations, and begin to search for the general laws which 
regulate, not events only, but classes of events, not such and such 
religion or literature, but a group of literatures or religions. If, for 
instance, it were admitted that a religion is a metaphysical poem, accom- 
panied by a belief; and remarking at the same time that there are cer- 
tain epochs, races, and circumstances in which belief, the poetical and 
metaphysical faculty, are combined with an unwonted vigour; if we 
consider that Christianity and Buddhism were produced at periods of 





Schelling, and Hegel, or the admirable boldness of brahminical and buddhistic 


4 T have endeavoured on several occasions to give expression to this law, notably 
in the preface to Lssais de Critique et d'Histoire, ; 
B 


18 INTRODUCTION. 


grand productions, and amid such miseries as raised up the fanaties 
of the Cévennes; if we recognise, on the other hand, that primitive 
zeligions are born at the awakening of human reason, during the richest 
blossoming of human imagination, at a time of the fairest artlessness 
and the greatest credulity; if we consider, also, that Mohammedanism 
appeared with the dawning of poetic prose, and the conception of national 
unity, amongst a people destitute of science, at a period of sudden 
development of the intellect,—we might then conclude that a religion 
is born, declines, is reformed and transformed according as circum- 
stances confirm and combine with more or less exactitude and force its 
three generative instincts ; and we should understand why it is endemic 
in India, amidst imaginative, philosophic, eminently fanatic brains ; why 
it blossomed forth so strangely and grandly in the middle ages, amidst 
an oppressive organisation, new tongues and literatures; why it was 
aroused in the sixteenth century with a new character and heroic enthu- 
siasm, amid universal regeneration, and during the awakening of the 
German races; why it breaks out into eccentric sects amid the rude 
American democracy, and under the bureaucratic Russian despotism ; 
why, in fine, it is spread, at the present day, over Europe in such dif- 
ferent dimensions and such various characteristics, according to the 
differences of race and civilisation. And so for every kind of human 
production—for literature, music, the fine arts, philosophy, science, 
statecraft, industries, and the rest. Each of these has for its direct 
cause a moral disposition, or a combination of moral dispositions: the 
cause given, they appear; the cause withdrawn, they vanish: the 
weakness or intensity of the cause measures their weakness or intensity. 
They are bound up with their causes, as a physical phenomenon with 
its condition, as the dew with the fall of the variable temperature, as 
dilatation with heat. There are such dualities in the moral as in the 
physical world, as rigorously bound together, and as universally ex- 
tended in the-one as in the other. Whatever in the one case pro- 
duces, alters, suppresses the first term, produces, alters, suppresses the 
second as a necessary consequence. Whatever lowers the temperature, 
deposits the dew. Whatever develops credulity side by side with 
poetical thoughts, engenders religion. Thus phenomena ‘have been 
produced; thus they will be produced. .As soon as we know the 
sufficient and necessary condition of one of these vast occurrences, our 
understanding grasps the future as well as the past. We ‘can say with 
confidence in what circumstances it will reappear, foresee without 
rashness many portions of its future history, and sketch with care some 
features of its ulterior development. 


Vill. 


History is now upon, or perhaps almost upon this footing, that it 
must proceed after such a method of research. The question pro- 
pounded now-a-days is of this kind. Given a literature, philosophy, 





INTRODUCTION. 19 


society, art, group of arts, what is the moral condition which produced 
it? what the conditions of race, epoch, circumstance, the most fitted to 
produce this moral condition? There is.a distinct moral condition for 
each of these formations, and for each of their branches; one for art in 
general, one for each kind of art-—for architecture, painting, sculpture, 
music, poetry; each has its special germ in the wide field of human 


7 psychology; each has its law, and it is by virtue of this law that we 





see it raised, by chance, as it seems, wholly alone, amid the miscarriage of 
its neighbours, like painting in Flanders and Holland in the seventeenth 
century, poetry in England in the sixteenth, music in Germany in the 
eighteenth. At this.moment, and in these countries, the conditions have 
been fulfilled for one art, not for others, and a single branch has budded 
in the general barrenness. For these rules of human growth must history 
search; with the special psychology of each special formation it must 
occupy itself; the finished picture of these characteristic conditions it 
must now labour to compose. No task is more delicate or more diffi- 
cult; Montesquieu tried it, but in his time history was too new to 
. admit of his success; they had not yet even a suspicion of the road 
necessary to be travelled, and hardly now do we begin to catch sight 
of it. Just as-in its elements astronomy is a mechanical and physiology 
a chemical problem, so history in its elements is a psychological 
problem. ‘There is a particular inner system of impressions and opera- 
tions which makes an artist, a believer, a musician, a painter, a wan- 
derer, a man of society; and of each the affiliation, the depth, the 
independence of ideas and emotions, are different: each has its moral 
history and its special structure, with some governing disposition and 
some dominant feature. To explain each, it would be necessary to 
write a chapter of esoteric analysis, and barely yet has such a method 
been rudely sketched. One man alone, Stendhal, with a singular bent 
of mind and a singular education, has undertaken it, and to this day 
the majority of readers find his books paradoxical and obscure: his 
talent and his ideas were premature; his admirable divinations were 
not understood, any more than his profound sayings thrown out cur- 
sorily, or the astonishing justness of his perception and of his logic. 
It was not perceived that, under the exterior of a conversationalist and 
a man of the world, he explained the most complicated of esoteric 
mechanisms; that he laid his finger on the mainsprings ; .that he intro- 
duced into the history of the heart scientific processes, the art of nota- 
_ tion, decomposition, deduction ; that he first marked the fundamental 
causes of nationality, climate, temperament; in short, that he treated 
_ of sentiments as they should be treated,—in the manner of the naturalist, 
namely, and of the natural philosopher, who constructs classifications 
and weighs forces. For this very reason he was considered dry and 
_ eccentric: he remained solitary, writing novels, voyages, notes, for 
which he sought and obtained a score of readers, And yet we find in 





(20 INTRODUCTION. 


‘his books at the present day essays the most suitable to open the path” 
which I have endeavoured to describe. No one has better taught us 
how to open our eyes and see, to see first the men that surround us and 
the life that is present, then the ancient and authentic documents, to 
read between the black and white lines of the pages, to recognise under 
the old impression, under the scribbling of a text, the precise sentiment, 
the movement of ideas, the state of mind in which they were written. 
In his writings, in Sainte-Beuve, in the German critics, the reader will 
see all the wealth that may be drawn from a literary work: when the 
work is rich, and one knows how to interpret it, we find there the 
psychology of a soul, frequently of an age, now and then of a race. 
In this light, a great poem, a fine novel, the confessions of a superior 
man, are more instructive than a heap of historians with their histories. 
I would give fifty volumes of charters and a hundred volumes of state- 
papers for the memoirs of Cellini, the epistles of St. Paul, the Table- 
talk of Luther, or the comedies of Aristophanes. In this consists the 
importance of literary works: they are instructive because they are 
beautiful; their utility grows with their perfection; and if they furnish 
documents, it is because they aremonuments. The more a book repre- 
sents visible sentiments, the more it is a work of literature ; for the proper 
office of literature is to take note of sentiments. The more a book 
represents important sentiments, the higher is its place in literature; 
for it is by representing the mode of being of a whole nation and a 
whole age, that a writer rallies round him the sympathies of an entire 
age and an entire nation. This is why, amid the writings which set 
before our eyes the sentiments of preceding generations, a literature, 
and notably a grand literature, is incomparably the best. It resembles 
that admirable apparatus of extraordinary sensibility, by which phy- 
sicians disentangle and measure the most recondite and delicate changes 
of a body. Constitutions, religions, do not approach it in importance ; 
the articles of a code and of a catechism only show us the spirit roughly 
and without delicacy. If there are any writings in which politics and 
dogma are full of life, it is in the eloquent discourses of the pulpit and 
the tribune, memoirs, unrestrained confessions; and all this belongs to 
literature: so that, in addition to itself, it has all the advantage of 
other works. It is then chiefly by the study of literatures that one 
may construct a moral history, and advance toward the knowledge of 
psychological laws, from which events spring. 

Iam about to write the history of a literature, and to seek in it for _ 
the psychology of a people: if I have chosen this one in particular, it 
is not without a reason. I had to find a people with a grand and 
complete literature, and this is rare: there are few nations who have, 
during their whole existence, really thought and written. Among the 
ancients, the Latin literature is worth nothing at the outset, then bor- 
rowed and imitative. Among the moderns, German literature is almost 





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INTRODUCTION. 21 


wanting for two centuries.* Italian literature and Spanish literature 
end at the middle of the seventeenth century. Only ancient Greece, 
modern France and England, offer a complete series of great significant 
monuments. I have chosen England, because being yet alive, and 
subject to direct examination, it may be better studied than a destroyed 


‘civilisation, of which we retain but the scraps, and because, being 


different from France, it has in the eyes of a Frenchman a more distinct 
character. Besides, there is a peculiarity in this civilisation, that apart 


from its spontaneous development, it presents a forced deviation, it has 


suffered the last and most effectual of all conquests, and that the three 
grounds whence it has sprung, race, climate, the Norman invasion, 
may be observed in its remains with perfect exactness; so well, that 
we may examine in this history the two most powerful moving springs 
of human transformation, natural bent and constraining force, and we 
may examine them without uncertainty or gap, in a series of authentic 
and unmutilated memorials. I have endeavoured to define these 
primary springs, to exhibit their gradual effects, to explain how they 
have ended by bringing to light great political, religious, and literary 
works, and by developing the recondite mechanism whereby the Saxon 
barbarian has been transformed into the Englishman of to-day. 





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HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE. 





BOOK I. 
THE SOURCE. 


a ae 


CHAPTER L 


The Saxons, 


I. The old country—Soil, sea, sky, climate—The new country—A moist land 
and a thankless soil—Influence of climate on character. 

IL. The bodily structure—Food—Manners—Uncultivated instincts, German 
and English. 

III. Noble instincts in Germany—The individual—The family—The state— 
Religion—The Edda—Tragi-heroic conception of the world and of man- 
kind. 

IV. Noble instincts in England—Warrior and chieftain—Wife and husband— 
The poem of Beowulf—Barbarian society and the barbarian hero, 

V. Pagan poems—Kind and force of sentiments—Bent of mind and speech— 
Force of impression ; harshness of expression. 

VI. Christian poems—Wherein the Saxons are predisposed to Christianity— 
How converted—Their view of Christianity—Hymns of Cedmon— 
Funeral hymn—Poem of Judith—Paraphrase of the Bible. 

VIL Why Latin culture took no hold on the Saxons—Reasons drawn from 
the Saxon conquest—Bede, Alcuin, Alfred—Translations—Chronicles— 
Compilations—Impotence of Latin writers—Reasons drawn from the 
Saxon character—Adhelm—Alcuin—Latin verse—Poetic dialogues—Bad 
taste of the Latin writers. 

VIII. Contrast of German and Latin races—Character of the Saxon race—Its. 

endurance under the Norman conquest. 


L 


_§ you coast the North Sea from the Sebold to Jutland, you wit 
meats in ta first place that chciehasememens Seatute 16 the want 


swollen and sluggish, with long, black-looking waves; the flooding 
SET ws Sh-aced tha inl 19 bss 4 GEENA Co med Ice od tore 
oe In 


24 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


destroy. Thick mists hover above, being fed by ceaseless exhalations. — 
They lazily turn their violet flanks, grow black, suddenly descend in 
heavy showers; the vapour, like a furnace-smoke, crawls for ever on 
the horizon. Thus watered, the plants multiply ; in the angle between 
Jutland and the continent, in a fat muddy soil, ‘the verdure is as fresh 
as that of England.’? Immense forests covered the land even after 
the eleventh century. The sap of this humid country, thick and 
potent, circulates in man as in the plants, and by its respiration, its 
nutrition, the sensations and habits which it generates, affects his 
faculties and his frame. 

The land produced after this fashion has one enemy, to wit, the sea. 
Holland maintains its existence only by virtue of its dykes. In 1654 
those in Jutland burst, and fifteen thousand of the inhabitants were 
swallowed up. One need see the blast of the North swirl down upon 
the low level of the soil, wan and ominous: ? the vast yellow sea dashes 
against the narrow belt of coast which seems incapable of a moment’s 
resistance; the wind howls and bellows; the sea-mews cry; the poor 
little ships flee as fast as they can, bending, almost overset, and en- 
deavour to find a refuge in the mouth of the river, which seems as 
hostile as the sea. A sad and precarious existence, as it were face to 
face with a beast of prey. The Frisians, in their ancient laws, speak 
already of the league they have made against ‘the ferocious ocean.’ 
Even in a calm this sea is unsafe. ‘ Before the eye spreads a mighty 
waste of waters; above float the clouds, grey and shapeless daughters 
of the air, which draw up the water in their mist-buckets from the sea, 
carry it along laboriously, and again suffer it to fall into the sea, a sad, 
useless, wearisome task.’* ‘ With flat and long extended maw, the 
shapeless north wind, like a scolding dotard, babbles with groaning, 
mysterious voice, and repeats his foolish tales,’ Rain, wind, and surge - 
leave room for naught but gloomy and melancholy thoughts. The very 
joy of the billows has in it an inexplicable restlessness and harshness. 
From Holland to Jutland, a string of small, deluged islands * bears wit- 
ness to their ravages; the shifting sands which the tide floats up 





? Malte-Brun, iv. 398. Denmark means ‘low plain.’ Not counting bays, gulfs, 
and canals, the sixteenth part of the country is covered by water. The dialect 
of Jutland bears still a great resemblance to the English. 

* See Ruysdaal’s painting in Mr. Baring’s collection. Of the three Saxon islands, 
North Strandt, Busen, and Heligoland, North Strandt was inundated by the sea 
in 1300, 1488, 1532, 1615, and almost destroyed in 1634. Busen is a level plain, 
beaten by storms, which it has been found necessary to surround by adyke. Heli- 
goland was laid waste by the sea in 800, 1300, 1500, 1649, the last time so 
— that only a portion of it survived. Turner, Hist, of Angl. Saxons, 1852, 

* Heine, die Nordsee. Cf. Tacitus, Ann, book 2, for the impressions of the 
Romans, ‘traculentia coli.’ 

* Watten, Platen, Sande, Diineninseln. 





=. Sena S| oe 
































CHAP. L] THE SAXONS, 25 


obstruct with rocks the banks and entrance of the rivers. The first 
Roman fleet, a thousand vessels, perished there; to this day ships wait 
a month or more in sight of port, tossed upon the great white waves, 
not daring to risk themselves in the shifting, winding channel, notorious 
for its wrecks. In winter a breastplate of ice covers the two streams ; 
. the sea drives back the frozen masses as they descend; they pile them- 
selves with a crash upon the sandbanks, and sway to and fro; now and 
then you may see a vessel, seized as in a vice, split in two beneath their 
violence. Picture, in this foggy clime, amid hoar-frost and storm, in 
_ these marshes and forests, half-naked savages, a kind of wild beasts, 
fishers and hunters, even hunters of men; these are they, Saxons, 
Angles, Jutes, Frisians ;* later on, Danes, who during the fifth and the 
ninth centuries, with their swords and battle-axes, took and kept the 
island of Britain. 

A rude and foggy land, like their own, except in the depth of its 
sea and the safety of its coasts, which one day will call up real fleets 
and mighty vessels; green England—the word rises to the lips and 
expresses all. Here also moisture pervades everything; even in sum- 
mer the mist rises; even on clear days you perceive it fresh from the 
great sea-girdle, or rising from vast but ever slushy moorlands, undu- 
lating with hill and dale, intersected with hedges to the limit of the 
horizon, Here and there a sunbeam strikes on the higher foliage with 

_ burning flash, and the splendour of the verdure dazzles and almost blinds 
you. The overflowing water straightens the flabby stems; they grow 
up, rank, weak, and filled with sap; a sap ever renewed, for the grey 
mists creep over a stratum of motionless vapour, and at distant inter- 
vals the rim of heaven is drenched by heavy showers. ‘There are yet 
commons as at the time of the Conquest, deserted, abandoned,® wild, 
covered with furze and thorny plants, with here and there a horse 
grazing in the solitude. Joyless scene, poverty-stricken soil! What a 
labour it has been to humanise it! What impression it must have 
made on the men of the South, the Romans of Cesar! I thought, 
when I saw it, of the ancient Saxons, wanderers from West and North, 
who came to settle in this land of marsh and fogs, on the border of these 
primeval forests, on the banks of these great muddy streams, which 
roll down their slime to meet the waves.* They must have lived as 

_ hunters and swineherds; grow, as before, brawny, fierce, gloomy. 

Take civilisation from this soil, and there will remain to the inhabit- 





1 Nine or ten miles out, near Heligoland, are the nearest soundings of about 
fifty fathoms. 

* Palgrave, Saxon Commonwealth, vol. i. 

_ * Notes of a Journey in England. 

* Léonce de Lavergne, De l Agriculture anglaise. ‘The soil is much worse 
than that of France.’ 
____* There are at least four rivers in England passing by the name of ‘Ouse,’ 
which is only another form of ‘ ooze.'—Tr. 


26 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


ants only war, the chase, gluttony, drunkenness. Smiling love, sweet 
poetic dreams, art, refined and nimble thought, are for the happy shores 
of the Mediterranean. Here the barbarian, ill housed in his mud- 
hovel, who hears the rain rustling whole days in the oak leaves—what 
dreams can he have, gazing upon his mud-pools and his sombre sky ?’ 


Il. 


Huge white bodies, cool-blooded, with fierce blue eyes, reddish 
flaxen hair ; ravenous stomachs, filled with meat and cheese, heated by 
strong drinks; of a cold temperament, slow to love,’ home-stayers, 
prone to brutal drunkenness: these are to this day the features which 
descent and climate preserve in the race, and these are what the Roman 
historians discovered in their former country. There is no living, in 
these lands, without abundance of solid food; bad weather keeps people 
at home; strong drinks are necessary to cheer them; the senses become 
blunted, the muscles are braced, the will vigorous. In every country 
the body of man is rooted deep into the soil of nature; and in this 
instance still deeper, because, being uncultivated, he is less removed 
from nature. In Germany, stormbeaten, in wretched boats of hide, 
amid the hardships and dangers of seafaring life, they were pre-eminently 
adapted for endurance and enterprise, inured to misfortune, scorners 
of danger. Pirates at first: of all kinds of hunting the man-hunt is 
most profitable and most noble; they left the care of the land and 
flocks to the women and slaves; seafaring, war, and pillage? was their 
whole idea of a freeman’s work. They dashed to sea in their two- 
sailed barks, landed anywhere, killed everything; and having sacrificed 
in honour of their gods the tithe of their prisoners, and leaving behind 
them the red light of their burnings, went farther on to begin again. 
‘ Lord,’ says a certain litany, ‘deliver us from the fury of the Jutes.” 
* Of all barbarians* these are strongest of body and heart, the most 
formidable,'—we may add, the most cruelly ferocious. When murder 
becomes a trade, it becomes a pleasure. About the eighth century, the 
final decay of the great Roman corpse which Charlemagne had tried to 
revive, and which was settling down into corruption, called them like 
vultures to the prey. Those who had remained in Denmark, with their 
brothers of Norway, fanatical pagans, incensed against the Christians, 
made a descent on all the surrounding coasts, Their sea-kings,* ‘ who 





? Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, passim: Diem noctemque continnass 
potando, aulli proborum.—Sera juvenum Venus.—Totos dies, juxta focum atque 
pees eet. — Voyage en Danemark, “They take six meals per day, the 

at five o'clock in the morning. One should see the - 
burg and at Amsterdam.’ : Aon ok 

* Bede, v.10. Sidonius, viii. 6. Lingard, Hist. land, 1; 

F Zozimos, iii. 147. Amm. Marcellinus, xxviii. iin “oe 

Aug. Thierry, Hist. 8. Edmundi, vi. 441, See Y: lingasaga, 
aia” i, ng and especially 








'» 


i 





CHAP. I.] | THE SAXONS. 27 


had never slept under the smoky rafters of a roof, who had never 
drained the ale-horn by an inhabited hearth,’ laughed at wind and 
storms, and sang: ‘The blast of the tempest aids our oars; the bellow- 
ing of heaven, the howling of the thunder, hurt us not ; the hurricane 
is our servant, and drives us whither we wish to go.’ ‘ We smote with 
our swords,’ says a song attributed to Ragnar Lodbrog; ‘to me it was 
a joy like having my bright bride by me on the couch. . . . He who 
has never been wounded lives a weary life.’ One of them, at the 
monastery of Peterborough, kills with his own hand all the monks, to 
the number of eighty-four; others, having taken King Alla, divided 
his ribs from the spine, and drew his lungs through the opening, so as 
to represent an eagle. Harold Harefoot, having seized his rival Alfred, 
with six hundred men, had them maimed, blinded, hamstrung, scalped, 
or embowelled.* Torture and carnage, greed of danger, fury of de- 
struction, obstinate and frenzied bravery of an over-strong temperament, 
the unchaining of the butcherly instincts,—such traits meet us at every 
step in the old Sagas. The daughter of the Danish Jarl, seeing Egil 
taking his seat near her, repels him with scorn, reproaching him with 
* seldom having provided the wolves with hot meat, with never having 
seen for the whole autumn a raven croaking over the carnage.’ But 
Egil seized her and pacified her by singing: ‘I have marched with my 
bloody sword, and the raven has followed me. Furiously we fought, 
the fire passed over the dwellings of men; we slept in the blood of 
those who kept the gates.’ From such table-talk, and such maid’s 
fancies, one may judge of the rest.* 

Behold them now in England, more settled and wealthier: do you 
look to find them much changed? Changed it may be, but for the 
worse, like the Franks, like all barbarians who pass from action to en- 


joyment. They are more gluttonous, carving their hogs, filling them- 


selves with flesh, swallowing down deep draughts of mead, ale, spiced 
wines, all the strong, coarse drinks which they can procure, and so they 
are cheered and stimulated. Add to this the pleasure of the fight. Not 
easily with such instincts can they attain to culture; to find a natural 
and ready culture, we must look amongst the sober and sprightly popu- 
lations of the south. Here the sluggish and heayy*® temperament re- 
mains long buried in a brutal life; people of the Latin race, never 


? Lingard, Hist. of England, i. 164, says, however, ‘Every tenth man out 





of the six hundred received his liberty, and of the rest a few were selected for 


slavery.’—Tr. 

* Franks, Frisians, Saxons, Danes, Norwegians, Icelanders, are one and the 
same people. Their language, laws, religion, poetry, differ but little. The more 
northern continue longest in their primitive manners. Germany in the fourth 
and fifth centuries, Denmark and Norway in the seventh and eighth, Iceland in 
the tenth and eleventh centuries, present the same condition, and the documents 
of each country will fill up the gaps that exist in the history of the others. 

* Tacitus, De mor. Germ, xxii. : Gens nec astuta nec callida, 


28 THE SOURCE. . [BOOK Ie 


at a first glance see in them aught but large gross beasts, clumsy and 
ridiculous when not dangerous and enraged. Up to the sixteenth cen- 
tury, says an old historian, the great body of the nation were little else 
than herdsmen, keepers of beasts for flesh and fleece; up to the end of 
the eighteenth drunkenness was the recreation of the higher ranks ; it 
is still that of the lower; and all the refinement and softening influence 
of civilisation have not abolished amongst thém the use of the rod and 
the fist. If the carnivorous, warlike, drinking savage, proof against 
the climat& still shows beneath the conventions of our modern society 
and the softness of our modern polish, imagine what he must have been 
when, landing with his band upon a wasted or desert country, and 
becoming for the first time a settler, he saw on the horizon the common 
pastures of the border country, and the great primitive forests which 
furnished stags for the chase and acorns for his pigs, The ancient 
histories tell us that they had a great and a coarse appetite.t Even at 


the time of the Conquest the custom of drinking to excess was a common > 


vice with men of the highest rank, and they passed in this way whole 
days and nights without intermission. Henry of Huntingdon, in the 
twelfth century, lamenting the ancient hospitality, says that the Norman 
kings provided their courtiers with only one meal a day, while the 
Saxon kings used to provide four, One day, when Athelstan went 
with his nobles to visit his relative Ethelfleda, the provision of mead 
was exhausted at the first salutation, owing to the copiousness of the 
draughts ; but Saint Dunstan, forecasting the extent of the royal appe- 
tite, had furnished the house, so that though the cup-bearers, as is the 
custom at royal feasts, were able the whole day to serve it out in horns 
and other vessels, the liquor was not found to be deficient. When the 
guests were satisfied, the harp passed from hand to hand, and the rude 


harmony of their deep voices swelled under the vaulted roof. The - 


monasteries themselves in Edgard’s time kept up games, songs, and 
dances till midnight, To shout, to drink, to caper about, to feel their 
veins heated and swollen with wine, to hear and see around them the 
riot of the orgy, this was the first need of the Barbarians.? The heavy 
human brute gluts himself with sensations and with noise. 

For this appetite there was a stronger grazing-ground,—I mean, 
blows and battle. In vain they attached themselves to the soil, be- 
came cultivators, in distinct communities and distinct regions, shut up* 


in their march with their kindred and comrades, bound together, sepa- — 





* Craik and MacFarlane, Pictorial History of England, 1837, i. 387. W. of 
Malmesbury. Henry of Huntingdon, vi. 365. 

* Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, xxii., xxiii. 

* Kemble, Saxons in England, 1849, i. 70, ii. 184. *The Acts of an Anglo-Saxon 
parliament are a series of treaties of peace between all the associations which make 
up the state ; a continual revision and renewal of the alliances offensive and defensive 


of all the freemen. They are universally mutual contracts for the maintenance of 
the frid or peace.’ ; 








CHAP. 1] THE SAXONS. 29 


rated from the mass, marked round by sacred landmarks, by primeval 
oaks on which they cut the figures of birds and beasts, by poles set up 
in the midst of the marsh, which whosoever removed was punished with 
merciless tortures. In vain these Marches and Ga’s' were grouped 
into states, and finally formed a half-regulated society, with assemblies 
and laws, under the lead of a single king; its very structure indicates 
the necessities to supply which it was created. They united in order 
to maintain peace; treaties of peace occupy their Parliaments; provi- 
sions for peace are the matter of their laws. War was waged daily and 
everywhere; the aim of life was, not to be slain, ransomed, mutilated, 
pillaged, hung and of course, if it was a woman, violated. Every man 
was obliged to appear armed, and to be ready, with his burgh or his 
township, to repel marauders, who went about in bands; one such con- 
sisted of thirty-five and more. The animal was yet too powerful, too 
impetuous, too untamed. Anger and covetousness in the first place 
brought him upon his prey. Their history, such as that of the Hept- 
archy, is like a history of ‘kites and crows.’* They slew the Britons 
or reduced them to slavery, fought the remnant of the Welsh, Irish, and 
Picts, massacred one another, were hewn down and cut to pieces by the 
Danes. In a hundred years, out of fourteen kings of Northumbria, 
seven were slain and six deposed. Penda of Mercia killed five kings, 
and in order to win the town of Bamborough, demolished all the neigh- 
bouring villages, heaped their ruins into an immense pile, sufficient to 
burn all the inhabitants, undertook to exterminate the Northumbrians, 
and perished himself by the sword at the age of eighty. Many amongst 
them were put to death by the thanes; one thane was burned alive; 
brothers slew one another treacherously. With us civilisation has in- 
terposed, between the desire and its fulfilment, the counteracting and 
softening preventive of reflection and calculation ; here, the impulse is 
sudden, and murder and every kind of excess spring from it instanta- 
neously. King Edwy* having married Elgiva, his relation within the 
prohibited degrees, quitted the hall where he was drinking on the very 
day of his coronation, to be with her. The nobles thought themselves 
insulted, and immediately Abbot Dunstan went himself to seek the 
young man. ‘He found the adulteress,’ says the monk Osbern, ‘ her 
mother, and the king together on the bed of debauch. He dragged the 
king thence violently, and setting the crown upon his head, brought 





1 A large district ; the word is still existing in German, as Rheingau, Breisgau. 
—Tr. 

* Turner, Hist. of the Anglo-Saz. ii. 440, Laws of Ina. 

* Milton’s expression. Lingard’s History, i. chap. 3. This history bears 
much resemblance to that of the Franks in Gaul. See Gregory of Tours. The 
Saxons, like the Franks, were somewhat softened, but above all depraved, and 
were pillaged and massacred by those of their northern brothers,who had remained 
in a savage state. 

4 Vita S. Dunstani, Anglia Sacra, ii. 


30 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


him back to the nobles” Afterwards Elgiva sent men to deprive 
Dunstan of his eyes, and then, in a revolt, saved herself and the king 
by hiding in the country; but the men of the North having seized her, 
‘hamstrung her, and then subjected her ‘to ‘the death which she de- 
served.’ Barbarity follows barbarity. At Bristol, at the time of the 
Conquest, as we are told by an historian of the time,” it was the custom 
to buy men and women in all parts of England, and to carry them to 
Ireland for sale. The buyers usually made the women pregnant, and 
took them to market in that condition, in order to ensure a better 
price. ‘You might have seen with sorrow long files of young people 
of both sexes and of the greatest beauty, bound with ropes, and daily 
exposed for sale. . . . They sold in this manner as slaves their nearest 
relatives, and even their own children.’ And the chronicler adds that, 
having abandoned this practice, they ‘ thus set an example to all the 
rest of England.’ Would you know the manners of the highest ranks, 
in the family.of the last king?* At a feast in the king's hall, Harold 
was serving Edward the Confessor with wine, when Tostig, his brother, 
stimulated by envy at his favour, seized him by the hair. They were 
separated. ‘Tostig went to Hereford, where Harold had ordered a great 
royal banquet to be prepared. There he seized his brother's attendants, 
and cutting off their heads and limbs, he placed them in the vessels of 
wine, ale, mead, and cider, and sent a message to the king: ‘If you go 
to your farm, you will find there plenty of salt meat, but you will do 
well to carry some more with you.’ Harold’s other brother, Sweyn, 
had violated the abbess Elgiva, assassinated Beorn the thane, and being 
banished from the country, had turned pirate. When we regard their | 
deeds of violence, their ferocity, their cannibal jests, we see that they 
were not far removed from the sea-kings, or from the followers of Odin, 
who ate raw flesh, hung men as victims on the sacred trees of Upsal, 
and killed one another to make sure of dying as they had lived, in 
blood. A score of times the old ferocious instinct reappears beneath 
the thin crust of Christianity. In the eleventh century, Sigeward,* the 
great Duke of Northumberland, was afflicted with a dysentery; and feel- 
ing his death near, exclaimed, ‘ What a shame for me not to have been 
permitted to die in so many battles, and to end thus by a cow’s death ! 
At least put on my breastplate, gird on my sword, set my helmet on 
my head, my shield in my left hand, my golden battle-axe in my right, 





* It is amusing to compare the story of Edwy and Elgiva in Turner, ii. 216, 
etc., and then in Lingard, i, 132, etc. The first accuses Dunstan, the other 
defends him.—Tx. 

2 Life of Bishop Wolstan. x 

*Tantw swvitio erant fratres illi quod, cum alicujus nitidam villam.conspi- 
cerent, dominatorem de nocte interfici juberent, totamque progeniem illius pos- 
sessionemque defuncti obtinerent. Turner, iii. 27. Henry of Huntingdon, vi. 367. 

* * Pend gigas statura,’ says the chronicler. H. of Huntingdon, yi. 367. Kemble, 
i. 393. Turner, ii 318. 









CHAP. 1] ‘THE SAXONS. $1 


sv that a great warrior, like myself, may die as a warrior.’ They did 
as he bade, and thus died he honourably with his arms. They had 
made one step, and only one, from barbarism. 


IL. 


Under this native barbarism there were noble dispositions, unknown 
to the Roman world, which were destined to produce a better people 
: out of the ruins of these. In the first place, ‘a certain earnestness, 





which leads them out of idle sentiments to noble ones.’ From their 
origin in Germany this is what we find them, severe in manner, with 
grave inclinations and a manly dignity. They live solitary; each one 
near the spring or the wood which has taken his fancy. Even in 
villages the cottages were detached; they must have independence and 
free air. They had no taste for voluptuousness; love was tardy, edu- 
cation severe, their food simple; all the recreation they indulged in 
was the hunting of the aurochs, and a dance amongst naked swords, 
Violent intoxication and perilous wagers were their weakest points ; 
they sought in preference not mild pleasures, but strong excitement. 
____ In everything, in rude and masculine instincts, they were men, Each 
in his own home, on his own land, and in his own hut, was master of 
himself, firm and self-contained, in no wise restrained or shackled. If 

the commonweal received anything from him, it was because he gave 

it, In all great conferences he gave his vote in arms, passed judg- 
ment in the assembly, made alliances and wars on his own account, 
moved from place to place, showed activity and daring. * The modern 
Englishman existed entire in this Saxon. If he bends, it is because he 

is quite willing to bend; he is mo less capable of self-denial than of 
independence ; sacrifice is not uncommon, a man cares not for his life 

and his blood. In Homer the warvior often gives way, and is not blamed 

if he flees. In the Sagas, in the Edda, he must be over-brave; in 
‘Germany the coward is drowned in the mud, under a hurdle. Through 

all outbreaks of primitive brutality gleams obscurely the grand idea of 
duty, which is, the self-constraint exercised in view of some noble end. 
Marriage was pure amongst them, chastity instinctive. Amongst the 
Saxons the adulterer was punished by death; the adulteress was obliged 

to hang herself, or was stabbed by the knives of her companions. The 
wives of the Cimbrians, when they could not obtain from Marius assur- 
ance of their chastity, slew themselves with their own hands. They 
thought there was something sacred ina woman ; they married but one, 

and kept faith with her. In fifteen centuries the idea of marriage is 
unchanged amongst them. The wife, on entering her husband's home, 





1Grimm, Mythology, 53, Preface. 
~ Tacitus, xx., xxiii., xi., xii., xiii, et passim. "We may still see the traces of 
tis taste in English dwelling 
‘acitus, xiii, 








a et 


32 THE SOURCE. [BooRL 


is aware that she gives herself altogether,’ ‘that she will have but one __ 
body, one life with him; that she will have no thought, no desire — 
beyond; that she will be the companion of his perils and labours; 
that she will suffer and dare as much as he, both in peace and war.’ 
And he, like her, knows that he gives himself. Having chosen his 
chief, he forgets himself in him, assigns to him his own glory, serves 
him to the death. ‘He is infamous as long as he lives, who returns 
from the field of battle without his chief.’? It was on this voluntary 
subordination that feudal society was based. Man, in this race, can 
accept a superior, can be capable of devotion and respect. ‘Thrown 
back upon himself by the gloom and severity of his climate, he has 
discovered moral beauty, while others diseover sensuous beauty. This 
kind of naked brute, who lies all day by his fireside, sluggish and dirty, 
always eating and drinking,® whose rusty faculties cannot follow the 
clear and fine outlines of poetic forms, catches a glimpse of the sublime _ 
in his troubled dreams. He does not see it, but simply feels it; his — 
religion is already within, as it will be in the sixteenth century, when 
he will cast off the sensuous worship of Rome, and confirm the faith of 
the heart.* His gods are not enclosed in walls; he has no idols. What 
he designates by divine names, is something invisible and grand, which 
floats through nature, and is conceived beyond nature,® a mysterious 
infinity which the sense cannot touch, but which ‘ reverence alone can 
appreciate ;’ and when, later on, the Jegends define and alter this vague 
divination of natural powers, an idea remains at the bottom of this 
chaos of giant-dreams; that the world is a warfare, and heroism the 
greatest excellence. 

In the beginning, say the old Icelandic legends,® there were two 
worlds, Niflheim the frozen, and Muspell the burning. From the fall- 
ing snow-flakes was born the giant Ymir. ‘There was in times of old, 
where Ymir dwelt, nor sand nor sea, nor gelid waves; earth existed 
not, nor heaven above; ‘twas a chaotic chasm, and grass nowhere.’ 
There was but Ymir, the horrible frozen Ocean, with his children, 
sprung from his feet and his armpits; then their shapeless progeny, 
Terrors of the abyss, barren Mountains, Whirlwinds of the North, and 





} Tacitus, xix., viii., xvi. Kemble, i. 232. ? Tacitus, xiv. 3 

* «In omni domo, nudi et sordidi. .. . Plus per otium transigunt, deditisomno, 
ciboque ; totos dies juxta focum atque ignem agunt.’ 

* Grimm, 53, Preface. Tacitus, x. 
_ ©*Deorum nominibus appellant secretum illnd, quod sola reverentia vident.’ 
Later on, at Upsal for instance, they had images (Adam of Bremen, Historia — 
Eeclesiastica). Wuotan (Odin) signifies etymologically the All-Powerful, him who 
penetrates and circulates through everything (Grimm, Mythol.). z 

* Edda Semundi, Edda Snorri, ed. Copenhagen, three vols. passim. Mr. 
Bergmann has translated several of these poems into French, which Mr. Taine 
quotes. The translator has generally made use of the edition of Mr. Thorpe, 
London, Triibner, 1866, 


































 cnar. 1] THE SAXONS. 33 


other malevolent beings, enemies of the sun and of life; then the cow 
Andhumbla, born also of melting snow, brings to light, whilst licking 
the hoar-frost from the rocks, a man Bur, whose grandsons kill the 
giant Ymir. ‘From his flesh the earth was formed, and from his bones 
the hills, the heaven from the skull of that ice-cold giant, and from 
his blood the sea; but of his brains the heavy clouds are all created.’ 
_. ‘Then arose war between the monsters of winter and the luminous fer- 
tile gods, Odin the founder, Baldur the mild and benevolent, Thor the 
summer-thunder, who purifies the air and nourishes the earth with 
showers. Long fought the gods against the frozen Jétuns, against the 
dark bestial powers, the wolf Fenrir, the great Serpent, whom they 
drown in the sea, the treacherous Loki, whom they bind to the rocks, 
beneath a viper whose venom drops continually on his face. Long will 
the heroes, who by a bloody death deserve to be placed ‘in the halls 
of Odin, and there wage a combat every day,’ assist the gods in their 
mighty war. A day will, however, arrive when gods and men will be 
conquered, Then 


‘trembles Yggdrasil’s ash yet standing ; groans that ancient tree, and the Jétun 
Loki is loosed. The shadows groan on the ways of Hel,’ until the fire of 
Surt has consumed the tree. Hrym steers from the east, the waters rise, the 
mundane snake is coiled in jétun-rage. The worm beats the water, and the eagle 
screams ; the pale of beak tears carcases ; (the ship) Naglfar is loosed. Surt from 
the South comes with flickering flame ; shines from his sword the Val-god’s sun. 
The stony hills are dashed together, the giantesses totter; men tread the path 
of Hel, and heaven is cloven. The sun darkens, earth in ocean sinks, fall from 
‘heaven the bright stars, fire’s breath assails the all-nourishing tree, towering fire 
plays against heaven itself.’* 
The gods perish, devoured one by one by the monsters; and the 
celestial legend, sad and grand now like the life of man, bears wit- 
ness to the hearts of warriors and heroes. 
There is no fear of grief, no care for life; they count it as dross 
__ when the idea has seized upon them. The trembling of the nerves, the 
 repugnance of animal instinct which starts back before wounds and 
death, are all lost in an irresistible determination. See how in their 
epic® the sublime springs up amid the horrible, like a bright purple 
flower amid a pool of blood. Sigurd has plunged his sword into the 
_ dragon Fafnir, and at that very moment they looked on one another ; 
_ and Fafnir asks, as he dies, ‘Who art thou? and who is thy father ? 
and what thy kin, that thou wert so hardy as to bear weapons against 





1 Hel, the goddess of death, born of Loki and Angrboda,—Tr. 

_* Thorpe, The Edda of Semund, The Vala’s Prophecy, str. 48-56, p. 9 et passim. 
3 Fafnismal Edda, This epic is common to the Northern races, as is the 
"Tiad to the Greck populations, and is found almost entire in Germany in the 
_ Nibelungen Lied. The translator has also used Magnusson and Morris’ poetical 
version of the Voélsunga Saga, and certain songs of the Elder Edda, London, 
Ellis, 1870, 

c 


34 THE SOURCE. — [BooK T 


me?’ ‘A hardy heart urged me on thereto, and a strong hand and this 
sharp sword. . . . Seldom hath hardy eld a faint-heart youth.’ After 
this triumphant eagle’s cry Sigurd cuts out the worm’s heart; but 


Regin, brother of Fafnir, drinks blood from the wound, and falls asleep. 


Sigurd, who was roasting the heart, raises his finger thoughtlessly 
to his lips. Forthwith he understands the language of the birds. The 
eagles scream above him in the branches. They warn him to mis- 
trust Regin. Sigurd cuts off the latter’s head, eats of Fafnir’s heart, 
drinks his blood and his brother’s. Amongst all these murders their 
courage and poetry grow. Sigurd has subdued Brynhild, the untamed 
maiden, by passing through the flaming fire; they share one couch 
for three nights, his naked sword betwixt them. ‘Nor the damsel did 
he kiss, nor did the Hunnish king to his arm lift her. He the blooming 
maid to Giuki’s son delivered,’ because, according to his oath, he must 
send her to her betrothed Gunnar. She, setting her love upon him, 
‘Alone she sat without, at eve of day, began aloud with herself to 
speak: “Sigurd must be mine; I must die, or that blooming youth 
clasp in my arms.”’ But seeing him married, she brings about his 
death. ‘Laughed then Brynhild, Budli’s daughter, once only, from 
her whole soul, when in her bed she listened to the loud lament of 
Giuki’s daughter.’ She put on her golden corslet, pierced herself with 
the sword’s point, and as a last request said: 


*Let in the plain be raised a pile so spacious, that for us all like room may 
be ; let them burn the Hun (Sigurd) on the one side of me, on the other side my 
household slaves, with collars splendid, two at our heads, and two hawks ; let also 
lie between us both the keen-edged sword, as when we both one couch ascended ; 
also five female thralls, eight male slaves of gentle birth fostered with me.’! 


All were burnt together ; yet Gudrun the widow continued motionless — 
by the corpse, and could not weep. The wives of the jarls came to 
console her, and each of them told her own sorrows, all the calamities: 
of great devastations and the old life of barbarism. 


‘Then spoke Giaflang, Giuki’s sister: ‘‘Lo, up on earth I live most loveless, 


who of five mates must see the ending, of daughters twain and three sisters, of 
brethren eight, and abide behind lonely.” Then spake Herborg, Queen of Hun- 
land: “*Crueller tale have I to tell of my seven sons, down in the Southlands, 
and the eight man, my mate, felled in the death-mead. Father and mother, and 


four brothers on the wide sea the winds and death played with ; the billows beat 


on the bulwark boards. Alone must I sing o’er them, alone must I array them, 


alone must my hands deal with their departing ; and all this was in one season’s _ 


wearing, and none was left for love or solace. Then was I bound» prey of the bY 


battle when that same season wore to its ending ; as a tiring may must I bind the 


shoon of the duke's high dame, every day at dawning. From her jealous hate gat 


I] heavy mocking, cruel lashes she laid upon me.””? 





' Thorpe, The Ldda of Semund, Third lay of Sigurd Fafnicide, str. 62-64, p. 88. 


* Magnusson and Morris, Story of the Volsungs and Nibel Lamentation 
Gudrun, p. 118 et passim, : birt Es — 








© 
: 





CHAP. 1] THE SAXONS, 35 


All was in vain; no word could draw tears from those dry eyes. They 
were obliged to lay the bloody corpse before her, ere her tears would 
come. Then a flood of tears ran down over her knees, and ‘the geese 
withal that were in the home-field, the fair fowls the may owned, fell 
a-screaming.’ She wishes to die, like Sigurd, on the corpse of him 
whom alone she had loved, if they had not deprived her of memory by 
a magic potion. Thusaffected, she departs in order to marry Atli, king 
of the Huns; and yet she goes against her will, with gloomy forebod- 
ings: for murder begets murder; and her brothers, the murderers of 
Sigurd, having been drawn to Atli’s court, fall in their turn into a 
snare like that which they had themselves laid. Then Gunnar was 
bound, and they tried to make him deliver up the treasure. He 
answers with a barbarian’s laugh : 


* Hégni’s heart in my hand shall lie, cut bloody from the breast of the 
valiant chief, the king’s son, with a dull-edged knife.” They the heart cut out 
from Hialli’s breast ; on a dish, bleeding, laid it, and it to Gunnar bare. Then 
said Gunnar, lord of men: ‘‘ Here have | the heart of the timid Hialli, unlike 
the heart of the bold Hégni; for much it trembles as in the dish it lies; it 
trembled more by half while in his breast itlay.” H®égni laughed when to his heart 
they cut the living crest-crasher ; no lament uttered he. All bleeding on a dish 
they laid it, and it to Gunnar bare. Calmly said Gunnar, the warrior Niflung: 
* Here have 1 the heart of the bold Hégni, unlike the heart of the timid Hialli ; 
for it little trembles as in the dish it lies: it trembled less while in his breast it 
lay. So far shalt thou, Atli! be from the eyes of men as thou wilt from the 
treasures be. In my power alone is all the hidden Niflung’s gold, now that Hiégni 
lives not. Ever was I wavering while we both lived ; now am I so no longer, as I 
alone survive.”’! 


It was the last insult of the self-confident man, who values neither 
his own life nor that of another, so that he can satiate his vengeance. 
They cast him into the serpent’s den, and there he died, striking his 
harp with his foot. But the inextinguishable flame of vengeance 
passed from his heart to that of his sister. Corpse after corpse fell 
on each other; a mighty fury hurls them open-eyed to death. She 
killed the children she had by Atli, gave him their hearts to eat, served 
in honey, one day on his return from the carnage, and laughed coldly 
as she told him on what he had fed. ‘ Uproar was on the benches, 
portentous the cry of men, noise beneath the costly hangings. The 


_ children of the Huns wept; all wept save Gudrun, who never wept, 


or for her bear-tierce brothers, or for her dear sons, young, simple.’? 
Judge from this heap of ruin and carnage to what excess the mind 
could attain. There were men amongst them, Berserkirs,* who in 


battle, seized with a sort of madness, showed a sudden and super- 





I Phorpe, The Edda of Semund, Lay of Auli, str. 21-27, p. 117. 


—-® Ibid. str. 88, p. 119. 


* This word signifies men who fought without a breastplate, perhaps in shirts 


only ; Scottice, ‘ Baresarks.'—Tx. 


36 _ THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


human strength, and ceased to fee) their wounds. This is the concep- 
tion of a hero as engendered by this race in its infancy. Is it not 
strange to see them place their happiness in battle, their beauty in 
death? Is there any people, Hindoo, Persian, Greek, or Gallic, which 
has formed so tragic 2 conception of life? Is there any which has 
peopled its infantine mind with such gloomy dreams? Is there any 
which has so entirely banished the sweetness from enjoyment, and the 
softness from pleasure? Energy, tenacious and mournful energy, an 
ecstasy of energy—such was their chosen condition. Carlyle said well, 
that in the sombre obstinacy of an English labourer still survives the 
tacit rage of the Scandinavian warrior. Strife for strife’s sake—such is 
their pleasure. With what sadness, madness, waste, such a disposition 
breaks its bonds, we shall see in Shakspeare and Byron; with what 
completeness, in what duties it can entrench and employ itself under 
moral ideas, we shall see in the case of the Puritans. 


IV. 


They have established themselves in England; and however disor- 
dered the society which binds them together, it is founded, as in Ger- 
many, on generous sentiment. War is at every door, I am aware, but 
warlike virtues are behind every door; courage chiefly, then fidelity. 
Under the brute there is a free man, and a man with a heart. There is 
no man amongst them who, at his own risk,’ will not make alliance, 
go forth to fight, undertake adventures. There is no group of men 
amongst them, who, in their Witenagemote, is not for ever concluding 
alliances one with another. Every clan, in its own district, forms a 
league of which all the members, ‘brothers of the sword,’ defend each 
other, and demand each other’s blood at the price of their own. Every 
chief in his hall reckons that he has friends, not mercenaries, in the 
faithful ones who drink his beer, and who, having received as marks of 
his confidence, bracelets, swords, and suits of armour, will cast them- 
selves between him and danger on the day of battle. Independence 
and bravery smoulder amongst this young nation with violence and 
excess; but these are of themselves noble things; and no less noble 
are the sentiments which serve them for discipline,—to wit, an affec- 
tionate devotion, and respect for plighted faith. These appear in their 
laws, and break forth in their poetry. Amongst them greatness of 
heart gives matter for imagination. Their characters are not selfish 
and shifty, like those of Homer. They are brave hearts, simple* and 
strong, faithful to their relatives, to their master in arms, firm and 
stedfast to enemies and friends, abounding in courage, and ready for 
sacrifice. ‘Old as I am,’ says one, ‘I will not budge hence. I mean 





* See the Life of Sweyn, of Hereward, ete., even up to the time of the Conquest. 
* Beowulf, passim, Death of Byrhtnoth. 
* Tacitus, ‘Gens nec callida, nec astuta,’ 














CHAP. L] THE SAXONS. 37 


to die by my lord's side, near this-man I have loved so much. He 
kept his word, the word he had given to his chief, to the distributor of 
gifts, promising him that they should return to the town, safe and 
sound to their homes, or that they would fall both together, in the thick 
of the carnage, covered with wounds. He lay by his master’s side, like 
a@ faithful servant.’ Though awkward in speech, their old poets find 
touching words when they have to paint these manly friendships. We 
cannot without emotion hear them relate how the old ‘king embraced 
the best of his thanes, and put his arms about his neck, how the tears 
flowed down the cheeks of the greyhaired chief. . . . The valiant man 
was so dear to him. He could not stop the flood which mounted from 
his breast. In his heart, deep in the cords of his soul, he sighed in secret 
after the beloved man.’ Few as are the songs which remain to us, they 
return to this subject again and again. The wanderer in a reverie 
dreams about his lord:' It seems to him in his spirit as if he kisses and 
embraces him, and lays head and hands upon his knees, as oft before in 
the olden time, when he rejoiced in his gifts. Then he wakes—a man 
without friends. He sees before him the desert tracks, the seabirds 
dipping in the sea, stretching wide their wings, the frost and the snow, 
mingled with falling hail. Then his heart’s wounds press more heavily. 
The exile says: 

Often and often we two were agreed, that nought should divide us save Death 
himself! Now all is changed, and our friendship is as though it had never been. 
I must dwell here, far from my well-beloved friend, in the midst of enmities. J 
am forced to live under the forest leaves, under an oak, in this cavern under 
ground, -Cold is this earth-dwelling ; I am weary of it. Dark are the valleys, 
high the mountains, a sad wall of boughs, covered with brambles, a joyless abode. 
. . » My friends are in the earth ; they whom I loved in life, the tomb holds 
them. And I am here before the dawn; I walk alone under the oak, amongst 
the earth-caverns. . . . Here often and often the loss of my lord has oppressed 
me with heavy grief.’ 


Amid their perilous mode of life, and the perpetual appeal to arms, 
there exists no sentiment more warm than friendship, nor any virtue 
stronger than loyalty. 

Thus supported by powerful affection and firm fidelity; society is 
kept wholesome, Marriage is like the state. We find women asso- 
ciating with the men, at their feasts, sober and respected.” She speaks, 
and they listen to her; no need for concealing or enslaving her, in 
order to restrain or retain her. She is a person, andnotathing. The 
law demands her consent to marriage, surrounds her with guarantees, 
accords her protection. She can inherit, possess, bequeath, appear in 
courts of justice, in county assemblies, in the great congress of the elders. 
Frequently the name of the queen and of several other ladies is inscribed 





1 The Wanderer, the Exile’s Song, Codex Exoniensis, published by Thorpe. 
* Turner, Hist. Angl. Saz. iii. 63 ; Pictorial History, i. 340. 


38 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 


in the proceedings of the Witenagemote. Law and tradition maintain 
her integrity, as if she were a man, and side by side with the man. In 
Alfred? there is a portrait of the wife, which for purity and elevation 
equals all that we can devise with our modern refinement. 


‘Thy wife now lives for thee—for thee alone. She has enough of all kind of 
wealth for this present life, but she scorns them all for thy sake alone. She has 
forsaken them all, because she had not thee with them. Thy absence makes her 
think that all she possesses is nought. Thus, for love of thee, she is wasted away, 
and lies near death for tears and grief.’ 


Already, in the legends of the Edda, we have seen the maiden Sigrun 
at the tomb of Helgi, ‘as glad as the voracious hawks of Odin, when 
they of slaughter know, of warm prey,’ desiring to sleep still in the 
arms of death, and die at last on his grave. Nothing here like the love 
we find in the primitive poetry of France, Provence, Spain, and Greece. 
There is an absence of gaiety, of delight; beyond marriage it is only a 
ferocious appetite, an outbreak of the instinct of the beast. It appears 
nowhere with its charm and its smile; there is no love song in this 
ancient poetry. The reason is, that with them love is not an amuse- 
ment and a pleasure, but a promise and a devotion. All is grave, even 
sombre, in civil relations as in conjugal society. As in Germany, amid 
the sadness of a melancholic temperament and the savagery of a bar- 
barous life, the most tragic human faculties, the deep power of love 
and the grand power of will, are the only ones that sway and act. 

This is why the hero, as in Germany, is truly heroic. Let us speak 
of him at length; we retain one of their poems, that of Beowulf, almost 
entire. Here are the stories, which the thanes, seated on their stools, 
by the light of their torches, listened to as they drank the ale of their 
king: we can glean thence their manners and sentiments, as in the 
Iliad and the Odyssey those of the Greeks. Beowulf is a hero, a- 
knight-errant before the days of chivalry, as the leaders of the German 
bands were feudal chiefs before the institution of feudalism. Hehas 
‘rowed upon the sea, his naked sword hasd in his hand, amidst the 
fierce waves and coldest of storms, and the rage of winter hurtled over 
the waves of the deep.’ The sea-monsters, ‘the many-coloured foes, — 
drew him to.the bottom of the sea, and held him fast in their gripe.’ 
But he reached ‘the wretches with his point and with his war-bill.’ 
‘The mighty sea-beast received the war-rush through his hands,’ and he 
slew nine nickors (sea-monsters). And now behold him, as he comes 
across the waves to succour the old King Hrothgar, who with his 
vassals sits afflicted in his great mead-hall, high and curved with pin- 





* Alfred borrows his portrait from Boethius, but almost entirely re-writes it. 

* Kemble thinks that the origin of this poem is very ancient, perhaps contem- 
porary with the invasion of the Angles and Saxons, but that the version we possess 
is later than the seventh century.—Kemble’s Beowulf, text and translation, 1833. 
The characters are Danish. ; 





ly aia Oi ae ay ee acai 





CHAP. 1] THE SAXONS. 39 


nacles. For ‘a grim stranger, Grendel, a mighty haunter of the 
marshes,’ had entered his hall during the night, seized thirty of the 
thanes who were asleep, and returned in his war-craft with their car- 
casses; for twelve years the dreadful ogre, the beastly and greedy 
creature, father of Orks and Jituns, devoured men and emptied the 
. best of houses. Beowulf, the great warrior, offers to grapple with the 
__ fiend, and foe to foe contend for life, without the bearing of either 
sword or ample shield, for he has ‘learned also that the wretch for his 
cursed hide recketh not of weapons,’ asking only that if death takes 
___ him, they will bear forth his bloody corpse and bury it; mark his fen- 
dwelling; send to Hygelic, his chief, the best of war-shrouds that 
guards his breast. 

He is lying in the hall, ‘ trusting in his proud strength; and when the 

mists of night arose, lo, Grendel comes, tears open the door,’ seized a 

sleeping warrior: ‘ he tore him unawares, he bit his body, he drank the 
: blood from the veins, he swallowed him with continual tearings.’ But 

Beowulf seized him in turn, and ‘ raised himself upon his elbow.’ 

*The lordly hall thundered, the ale was spilled . . . both were enraged; 
savage and strong warders ; the house resounded ; then was it a great wonder that 
the wine-hall withstood the beasts of war, that it fell not upon the earth, the 
fair palace ; but it was thus fast. . . . The noise arose, new enough ; a fearful 
terror fell on the North Danes, on each of those who from the wall heard the out- 
ery, God's denier sing his dreadful lay, his song of defeat, lament his wound.' 
. « « The foul wretch awaited the mortal wound; a mighty gash was evident 
upon his shoulder; the sinews sprung asunder, the junctures of the bones burst ; 
success in war was given to Beowulf. Thence must Grendel fly sick unto death, 
among the refuges of the fens, to seek his joyless dwelling. He all the better 
knew that the end of his life, the number of his days was gone by.”? 


For he had left on the land, ‘hand, arm, and shoulder;’ and ‘in the 
lake of Nicors, where he was driven, the rough wave was boiling with 
blood, the foul spring of waves all mingled, hot with poison; the dye, 
discoloured with death, bubbled with warlike gore.’ There remained 
a female monster, his mother, who like him ‘ was doomed to inhabit 
the terror of waters, the cold streams,’ who came by night, and amidst 
drawn swords tore and devoured another man, A’schere, the king's best 
friend. A lamentation arose in the palace, and Beowulf offered him- 
self again. They went to the den, a hidden land, the refuge of the 
wolf, near the windy promontories, where a mountain stream rusheth 
downwards under the darkness of the hills, a flood beneath the earth ; 
the wood fast by its roots overshadoweth the water; there may one by 
night behold a marvel, fire upon the flood: the Stepper over the heath, 
_ when wearied out by the hounds, sooner will give up his soul, his life 
_ “upon the brink, than plunge therein to hide his head. Strange dragons 
_ and serpents swam there; ‘from time to time the horn sang a dirge, a 




























' Kemble’s Beowulf, xi. p. 32. 9 Ibid, xii. p. 34, 


40 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


terrible song.’ Beowulf plunged into the wave, descended, passed mon- 
sters who tore his coat of mail, to the ogress, the hateful manslayer, who, — 
seizing him in her grasp, bore him off to her dwelling. A pale gleam 

shone brightly, and there, face to face, the good champion perceived 


‘the she-wolf of the abyss, the mighty sea-woman ; he gave the war-onset with 
his battle-bill ; he held not back the swing of the sword, so that on.her head the 
ring-mail sang aloud a greedy war-song. . . . The beam of war would not bite. 
Then he caught the Grendel’s mother by the shoulder ; twisted the homicide, that 
she bent upon the floor. . . . She drew her knife broad, brown-edged, (and tried to 
pierce) the twisted breast-net which protected his life... . Then saw he among 
the weapons a bill fortunate with victory, an old gigantic sword, doughty of 
edge, ready for use, a work of giants. He seized the belted hilt ; the warrior of the 
Scyldings, fierce and savage whirled the ring-mail ; despairing of life, he struck 
furiously, so that it grappled hard with her about her neck ; it broke the bone- 
rings, the bill passed through all the doomed body ; she sank upon the floor ; the 
sword was bloody, the man rejoiced in his deed; the beam shone, light stood 
within, even as from heaven mildly shines the lamp of the firmament.’? 
Then he saw Grendel dead in a corner of the hall; and four of his 
companions, having with difficulty raised the monstrous head, bore it 
by the hair to the palace of the king. | 
That was his first labour; and the rest of his life was similar. When 
he had reigned fifty years on earth, a dragon, who had been robbed of 


his treasure, came from the hill and burned men and houses ‘ with 
waves of fire.’ 


*Then did the refuge of earls command to make for him a variegated shield, all 
of iron ; he knew that a shield of wood could not help him, lindenwood opposed 
to fire. . . . The prince of rings was then too proud to seek the wide flier with 
a troop, with a large company ; he feared not for himself that battle, nor did he 
make any account of the dragon’s war, his laboriousness and valour.’ 


And yet he was sad, and went unwillingly, for he was ‘fated to abide — 
the end.’ Then 


‘he was ware of a cavern, a mound under the earth, nigh to the sea-wave, 
the dashing of waters, which was full within of embossed ornaments and wires. 
- . » Then the king, hard in war, sat upon the promontory, and bade farewell 
to his household comrades. . . . I, the old guardian of my people, seek a feud.” 

He let words proceed from his heart, the dragon came, vomiting fire; 
the blade bit not his body, and the king suffered painfully, involved in 
fire. His comrades had turned into the woods, all save Wiglaf, who 
went through the fatal smoke, knowing well ‘that it was not the old 


custom’ to abandon relation and prince, ‘ that he alone shall suffer dis- 
tress, shall sink in battle.’ 


‘The worm became furious, the foul insidious stranger, variegated with waves 


of fire, . . . hot and warlike fierce, he clutched the whole neck with bitter banes ; 
he was bloodied with life-gore, the blood boiled in waves.’? 





1 Beowulf, xxii., xxiii., p. 62 et passim, 
8 Ibid. xxxiii.-xxxvi., p. 94 et passim, 





CHAP. 1] THE SAXONS. 41 


They, with their swords, carved the worm in the midst. Yet the 
wound of the king became burning and swelled; he soon discovered 
that the poison boiled in his breast within, and sat by the wall upon a 
stone; ‘he looked upon the work of giants, how the eternal cavern 
held within stone arches fast upon pillars,’ 
Y Then he said, ‘I have held this people fifty years ; there was not any king of 
my neighbours who dared to greet me with warriors, to oppress me with terror. . . . 
I held mine own well, I sought not treacherous malice, nor swore unjustly many 
oaths ; on account of all this, I, sick with mortal wounds, may have joy... . 
Now do thou go immediately to behold the hoard under the hoary stone, my dear 
Wiglaf. . . . Now, I have purchased with my death a hoard of treasures ; it will be 
yet of advantage at the need of my people. . . . I give thanks . . . that I might 
; before my dying day obtain such for my people . . . longer may I not here be,’* 
4 This is thorough and real generosity, not exaggerated and pretended, 
__ as it will be later on in the romantic imaginations of babbling clerics, 
mere composers of adventure. Fiction as yet is not far removed from 
fact: the man breathes manifest under the hero. Rude as the poetry 
is, its hero is grand; he is so, simply by his deeds. Faithful, first to 
his prince, then to his people, he went alone, in a strange land, to ven- 
ture himself for the delivery of his fellow-men; he forgets himself in 
death, while thinking only that it profits others. ‘Each one of us,’ he 
says in one place, ‘must abide the end of his present life.’ Let, there- 
fore, each do justice, if he can, before his death. Compare with him 
the monsters whom he destroys, the last traditions of the ancient wars 
against inferior races, and of the primitive religion; think of his life of 
danger, nights upon the waves, man’s efforts against the brute creation, 
the indomitable breast crushing the breasts of beasts, powerful muscles 
which, when exerted, tear the flesh of the monsters: you will see 
through the mist of legends, and under the light of poetry, the valiant 
men who, amid the furies of war and the raging of their own mood, 
began to settle a people and to found a state. 


Vv. 


One poem nearly whole and two or three fragments are all that 
remain of this lay-poetry of England, ‘The rest of the pagan current, 
German and barbarian, was arrested or overwhelmed, first by the influx of 
the Christian religion, then by the conquest of the Norman-French. But 
the remnant more than suffices to show the strange and powerful poetic 
genius of the race, and to exhibit beforehand the flower in the bud. 

If there has ever been anywhere a deep and serious poetic senti- 
_ ment, it is here, They do not speak, they sing, or rather cry out. 
Each little verse is an acclamation, which breaks forth like a growl; 
their strong breasts heave with a groan of anger or enthusiasm, and a 
vehement phrase or indistinct expression rises suddenly, almost in spite 


4} Beowulf, xxxvii., xxxviii., p. 110 et passim, 1 have throughout always used 
the very words of Kemble's translation.—Tn, 





ga 








- 


: a lites ie 9 Per oi BY a aaah 
> . _ ah die rm c 
42 THE SOURCE. [BookL 


of them, to their lips. There is no art, no natural talent, for describing _ : 


singly and in order the different parts of an object or an event. The 
fifty rays of light which every phenomenon emits in succession to a 
regular and well-directed intellect, come to them at once in a glowing 
and confused beam, disabling them by their force and convergence. 
Listen to their genuine war-chants, unchecked and violent, as became 
their terrible voices. To this day, at this distance of time, separated as 
they are by manners, speech, ten centuries, we seem to hear them still :— 

‘The army goes forth: the birds sing, the cricket chirps, the war-weapons 
sound, the lance clangs against the shield. Now shineth the moon, wandering 
under the sky. Now arise deeds of woe, which the enmity of this people prepares 
to do. . . . Then in the court came the tumult of war-carnage. They seized with 
their hands the hollow wood of the shield. They smote through the bones of the 


head. The roofs of the castle resounded, until Garulf fell in battle, the first of 


earth-dwelling men, son of Guthlaf. Around him lay many brave men dying: 


The raven whirled about, dark and sombre, like a willow leaf. There was a — 


sparkling of blades, as if all Finsburg were on fire. Never have I heard of a more 
worthy battle in war.”! 


This is the song on Athelstan’s victory at Brunanburh: 


* Here Athelstan king, of earls the lord, the giver of the bracelets of the nobles, 
and his brother also, Edmund the etheling, the Elder a lasting glory won by 


they cleaved, they hewed the noble banners: with the rest of the family, the 
children of Edward. . ... Pursuing, they destroyed the Scottish people and the 
ship-fleet. . . . The field was coloured with the warrior’s blood! After that the 
sun on high, . . . the greatest star! glided over the earth, God’s candle bright! 
till the noble creature hastened to her setting. There lay soldiers many with darts 
struck down, Northern men over their shields shot. So were the Scotch ; weary of 
ruddy battle. . . . The screamers of war they left behind; the raven to enjoy, 
the dismal kite, and the black raven with horned beak, and the hoarse toad ; the 


eagle, afterwards to feast on the white flesh ; the greedy battle-hawk, and the grey — 


beast, the wolf in the wood.’ 


Here all is image. In their impassioned minds events are not bald, 
with the dry propriety of an exact description; each fits in with its 
pomp of sound, shape, colouring; it is almost a vision which is raised, 
complete, with its accompanying emotions, joy, fury, excitement. In 


their speech, arrows are ‘the serpents of Hel, shot from bows of horn ;’ 5 


ships are ‘great sea-steeds,’ the sea is ‘a chalice of waves,’ the helmet 
is ‘the castle of the head:’ they need an extraordinary speech to ex- 


‘ slaughter in battle, with the edges of swords, at Brunan burh. The wall of shields — 


press their vehement sensations, so that after a time, in Iceland, when — 


this kind of poetry is carried on; the earlier inspiration fails, art re-~ 
places nature, the Skalds are reduced to a distorted and obscure jargon. — 


- 


But whatever be the imagery, here as in Iceland, though unique, it is 





* Conybeare's /Uustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, 1826, Battle of Finsborough, 


p. 175. The complete collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry has been published by M. 
Grein. 


* Turner, Hist. of te Anglo-Sazons, iii., book 9, ch. i. p. 245, 





CHAP. 1] THE SAXONS. 43 






too feeble. The poets cannot satisfy the inner emotion by a single 
word, ‘Time after time they return to and repeat their idea. ‘The 
sun on high, the great star, God’s brilliant candle, the noble creature!’ 
Four subsequent times they employ the same thought, and each time 
under a new aspect. ll its different aspects rise simultaneously before 
_ the barbarian’s eyes, and each word was like a shock of the semi- 
' hallucination which excited him, . Verily, in such a condition, the 
regularity of speech and of ideas is disturbed at every turn. The suc- 
cession of thought in the visionary is not the same as in a reasoning 
‘mind. One colour induces another; from sound he passes to sound; 
his imagination is like a diorama of unexplained pictures. His phrases 
recur and change; he emits the word that comes to his lips without 
hesitation ; he leaps over wide intervals from idea to idea. The more 

his mind is transported, the quicker and wider the intervals traversed. 
With one spring he visits the poles of his horizon, and touches in 
} one moment objects which seemed to have the world between them. 
His ideas are entangled; without notice, abruptly, the poet will re- 
turn to the idea he has quitted, and insert it in the thought to which 
he is giving expression. It is impossible to translate these incon- 
gruous ideas, which quite disconcert our modern style. At times 
they are unintelligible.* Articles, particles, everything capable of 
‘illuminating thought, of marking the connection of terms, of producing 
regularity of ideas, all rational and logical artifices, are neglected.* 
Passion bellows forth like a great shapeless beast; and that is all. It 
rises and starts in little abrupt lines; it is the acme of barbarism. 
Homer's happy poetry is copiously developed, in full narrative, with 
rich and extended imagery. All the details of a complete picture are 
not too much for him; he loves to look at things, he lingers over them, 
rejoices in their beauty, dresses them in splendid words; he is like the 
Greek girls, who thought themselves ugly if they did not bedeck arms 
and shoulders with all the gold coins from their purse, and all the trea- 
sures from their caskets; his long verses flow by with their cadences, 
and spread out like a purple robe under an Ionian sun. Here the 
__-clumsy-fingered poet mingles and clashes his ideas in a bold measure; 
if measure there be, he barely observes it; all his ornament is three 
words beginning with one letter. His chief care is to abridge, to im- 
_ prison thought in a kind of mutilated cry.* The force of the internal 






























1 The cleverest Anglo-Saxon scholars, Turner, Conybeare, Thorpe, recognise 
this difficulty. 
_ __ * Turner, iii. 231, e¢ passim. The translations in French, however literal, do 
“injustice to the text ; that language is too clear, too logical. No Frenchman can 
“understand this extraordinary phase of intellect, except by taking a dictionary, 
_ and deciphering some pages of Anglo-Saxon for a fortnight. 

* Turner remarks that the same idea expressed by King Alfred, in prose and 
then in verse, takes in the first case seven words, in the second five. JJistory of 


the Anglo-Sazonz, iii. 235. 


44 THE SOURCE. [voor 


impression, which, not knowing how to unfold itself, becomes condensed 
by accumulation; the harshness of the expression, which, subservient 
to the energy and shocks of the inner sentiment, seeks only to exhibit 
it intact and original, spite of all order and beauty,—such are the cha- 
racteristics of their poetry, and these will be the characteristics of the 
poetry which is to follow. 


VI. 


A race so constituted was predisposed to Christianity, by its gloom, 
its aversion to sensual and reckless living, its inclination for the serious 
and sublime. When their sedentary habits had reconciled their souls 
to a long period of ease, and weakened the fury which fed their san- 
guinary religion, they readily inclined to a new faith. The vague 
adoration of the great powers of nature, which eternally fight for 
mutua)] destruction, and, when destroyed, rise up again to the combat, 
had long since disappeared in the far distance. Society, on its for- 
mation, introduced the idea of peace and the need for justice, and the 
war-gods faded from the minds of men, with the passions which had 
created them. A century and a half after the invasion by the Saxons,* 
Roman missionaries, bearing a silver cross with a picture of Christ, 
came in procession chanting a litany. Presently the high priest of the 
Northumbrians declared in presence of the nobles that the old gods 
were powerless, and confessed that formerly ‘he knew nothing of that 
which he adored;’ and he among the first, lance in hand, assisted to de- 
molish their temple. At his side a chief rose in the assembly, and said : 

“You remember, it may be, O king, that which sometimes happens in winter 
when you are seated at table with your earls and thanes. Your fire is lighted, 
and your hall warmed, and without is rain and snow and storm. Then comes a 
swallow flying across the hall ; he enters by one door, and leaves by another. The 
brief moment while he is within is pleasant to him ; he feels not rain nor cheer- 
less winter weather ; but the moment is brief—the bird flies away in the twinkling 
of an eye, and he passes from winter to winter. Such, methinks, is the life of man 
on earth, compared with the uncertain time beyond. It appears for a while; but 
what is the time which comes after—the time which was before? We know not. 
If, then, this new doctrine may teach us somewhat of greater certainty, it were 
well that we should regard it.’ 

This restlessness, this feeling of the infinite and dark beyond, this 
sober, melancholy eloquence, were the harbingers of spiritual life.* 
We find nothing like it amongst the nations of the south, naturally 
pagan, and preoccupied with the present life. These utter barbarians 
embrace Christianity straightway, through sheer force of mood and 
clime. To no purpose are they brutal, heavy, shackled by infantine 
superstitions, capable, like King Knut, of buying for a hundred golden 
talents the arm of Augustine, They possess the idea of God. This 





 §96-625. Aug. Thierry, i. 81; Bede, xii. 2, 
* Jouflroy, Problem oy Human Destiny. 





o Li 4 ee * ot 7 
CF Ss 


CHAP, 1.] THE SAXONS, 45 


grand God of the Bible, omnipotent and unique, who disappears almost 
entirely in the middle ages,’ obscured by His court and His family, 
endures amongst them in spite of absurd and grotesque legends. They 
do not blot Him out under pious romances, by the elevation of the 
saints, or under feminine caresses, to benefit the infant Jesus and the 
_ Virgin. Their grandeur and their severity raise them to His high 
level; they are not tempted, like artistic and talkative nations, to 
replace religion by a fair and agreeable narrative. More than any 
race in Europe, they approach, by the simplicity and energy of their 
conceptions, the old Hebraic spirit.. Enthusiasm is their natural condi- 
tion; and their new Deity fills them with admiration, as their ancient 
deities inspired them with fury. They have hymns, genuine odes, 
which are but a concrete of exclamations. They have no develop- 
ment; they are incapable of restraining or explaining their passion ; 
it bursts forth, in raptures, at the vision of the Almighty. The 
heart alone speaks here—a strong, barbarous heart. Cedmon, says 
Bede, their old poet,? was a more ignorant man than the others, who 
knew no poetry; so that in the hall, when they handed him the harp, 
he was obliged to withdraw, being unable to sing like his companions. 
Once, keeping night-watch over the stable, he fell asleep. A stranger 
appeared to him, and asked him to sing something, and these words 
came into his head: ‘ Now we ought to praise the Lord of heaven, the 
_ power of the Creator, and His skill, the deeds of the Father of glory; 

_ how He, being eternal God, is the author of all marvels; who, almighty 
guardian of the human race, created first for the sons of men the 
heavens as the roof of their dwelling, and then the earth.* Re- 
membering this when he woke, he came to the town, and they brought 
him before the learned men, before the abbess Hilda, who, when they 
had heard him, thought that he had received a gift from heaven, and 
made him a monk in the abbey. There he spent his life listening to 
portions of Holy Writ, which were explained to him in Saxon, ‘rumi- 
nating over them like a pure animal, turned them into most sweet verse.’ 
Thus is true poetry born. ‘These men pray with all the emotion of a 
new soul; they kneel; they adore; the less they know, the more they 
think. Some one has said that the first and most sincere hymn is this 
one word O! Theirs were hardly longer; they only repeated time 
after time some deep passionate. word, with monotonous vehemence. 
_ *In heaven art Thou, our aid and succour, resplendent with happiness! 
_ All things bow before Thee, before the glory of Thy Spirit. With one 
voice they call upon Christ; they all cry: Holy, holy art Thou, King 
_ of the angels of heaven, our Lord! and Thy judgments are just and 
great: they reign for ever and in all places, in the multitude of Thy 
works.’ We are reminded of the songs of the servants of Odin, ton- 








! Michelet, preface to La Renaissance ; Didron, Histoire de Dieu. 
* About 630, See Codex Bzoniensis, Thorpe. * Bede, iv. 24. 





46 THE SOURCE. [BOOKI, 


sured now, and clad in the garments of monks. Their poetry isthe 
same ; they think of God, as of Odin, in a string of short, accumulated, 
passionate images, like a succession of lightning-flashes; the Christian 
hymns embody the pagan. One of them, Adhelm, stood on a bridge 
leading to the town where he lived, and repeated warlike and profane 
odes alternately with religious poetry, in order to attract and instruct 
the men of his time. He could do it without changing his key. In 
one of them, a funeral song, Death speaks. It was one of the last 
Saxon compositions, containing a terrible Christianity, which seems at 
the same time to have sprung from the blackest depths of the Edda. 
The brief metre sounds abruptly, with measured stroke, like the pass- 
ing bell. It is as if one could hear the dull resounding responses 
which roll through ‘the church, while the rain beats on the dim glass, 
and the broken clouds sail mournfully in the sky; and our eyes, glued 
to the pale face of a dead man, feel beforehand the horror of the damp 
grave into which the living are about to cast him. 


* For thee was a house built ere thou wert born ; for thee was a mould shapen 
ere thou of thy mother camest. Its height is not determined, nor its depth 
measured ; nor is it closed up (however long it may be) until I thee bring where 
thou shalt remain ; until I shall measure thee and the sod of the earth. Thy 
house is not highly built; it is unhigh and low. When thou art in it, the heel- 
ways are low, the side-ways unhigh. The roof is built thy breast full’ nigh; so 
thou shalt in earth dwell full cold, dim, and dark. Doorless is that house, and 
dark it iswithin. There thou art fast detained, and Death holds the key. Loathly 
is that earth-house, and grim to dwell in. There thou shalt dwell, and worms 
shall share thee. Thus thou art laid, and leavest thy friends. Thou hast no 
friend that will come to thee, who will ever inquire how that house liketh thee, 
who shall ever open for thee the door, and seek thee, for soon thou becomest 
loathly and hateful to look upon.’! 


Has Jeremy Taylor a more gloomy picture? The two religious poetries, 
Christian and pagan, are so like, that one might make a common cata- 
logue of their incongruities, images, and legends. In Beowulf, alto- 
gether pagan, the Deity appears as Odin, more mighty and serene, and © 
differs from the other only as a peaceful Bretwalda? differs from an 
adventurous and heroic bandit-chief. The Scandinavian monsters, 
Jotuns, enemies of the AXsir,® have not vanished; but they descend 
from Cain, and are the giants drowned by the flood.* Their new hell 
is nearly the ancient Nastrand,® ‘a dwelling deadly cold, full of bloody 





1 Conybeare’s Illustrations, p. 271, . 

* Bretwalda was a species of war-king, or temporary and elective chief of all 
the Saxons.—Tr. 

* The Asir (sing. As) are the gods of the Scandinavian nations, of whom Odin 
was the chief.—Tr. 

* Kemble, i. i. xii. In this chapter he has collected many features which show 
the endurance of the ancient mythology. 

* Nastrand is the strand or shore of the dead.—Tr, 





Ce. ee 
- 4. ’ * . 

































omar. 1] THE SAXONS, 47 


eagles and pale adders;’ and the dreadful last day of judgment, when 
all will crumble into dust, and make way for a purer world, resembles 
the final destruction of Edda, that ‘twilight of the gods,’ which will end 
in a victorious regeneration, an everlasting joy ‘under a fairer sun.’ 

By this natural conformity they were able to make their religious 
__. poems indeed poems. Power in spiritual productions arises only from 
_~ the sincerity of personal and original sentiment. If they can describe 

religious tragedies, it is because their soul was tragic, and in a degree 

biblical. They introduce their fierce vehemence into their verses, like 

the old prophets of Israel, their murderous hatreds, their fanaticism, 

’ all the shudderings of their flesh and blood. One of them, whose poem 

is mutilated, has related the history of Judith—with what inspiration 

we shall see. It needed a barbarian to display in such strong light 
excesses, tumult, murder, vengeance, and combat. 


*Then was Holofernes exhilarated with wine; in the halls of his guests he 
laughed and shouted, he roared and dinned. Then might the children of men 
afar off hear how the stern one stormed and clamoured, animated and elated with 
wine. He admonished amply that they should bear it well to those sitting on the 
bench. So was the wicked one over all the day, the lord and his men, drunk with 
wine, the stern dispenser of wealth ; till that they swimming lay over drunk, all 
his nobility, as they were death-slain.”! 


The night having arrived, he commands them to bring into his tent 
*the illustrious virgin ;’ then, going in to visit her, he falls drunk on 
his bed. ‘The moment was come for ‘the maid of the Creator, the holy 
woman.” 


} *She took the heathen man fast by his hair; she drew him by his limbs 
_ towards her disgracefully; and the mischief-ful odious man at her pleasure laid; so 
as the wretch she might the easiest well command. She with the twisted locks 
struck the hateful enemy, meditating hate, with the red sword, till she had half 
ent off his neck ; so that he lay in a swoon, drunk and mortally wounded. He 
was not then dead, not entirely lifeless. She struck then earnest, the’ woman 
illustrious in strength, another time the heathen hound, till that his head rolled 
forth upon the floor. The foul one lay without a coffer; backward his spirit 
_ turned under the abyss, and there was plunged below, with sulphur fastened; 
_ for ever afterwards wounded by worms. Bound in torments, hard imprisoned, in 
hell he burns. -After his course he need not hope, with darkness overwhelmed, 
that he may escape from that mansion of worms ; but there he shall remain, ever 
and ever, without end, henceforth in that cavern-house, void of the joys of hope.'* 


__ Has any one ever heard a sterner accent of satisfied hate? When 
Clovis had listened to the Passion play, he cried, ‘ Why was I not there 
with my Franks!’ So here the old warrior instinct swelled into flame 
over the Hebrew wars. As soon as Judith returned, 


Men under helms (went out) from the holy city at the dawn itself. They 





1 Turner, Hist. of Anglo-Saxons, iii. book 9, ch. 3, p. 271. 
8 Ibid. p. 272. 


Pn 
48 THE SOURCE. [BooKL 


dinned shields ; men roared loudly. At this rejoiced the lank wolf in the wood, — 


and the wan raven, the fowl greedy of slaughter, both from the west, that the sons — 


of men for them should have thought to prepare their fill on corpses. And to 
them flew in their paths the active devourer, the eagle, hoary in his feathers. 
The willowed kite, with his horned beak, sang the song of Hilda. The noble 
warriors proceeded, they in mail, to the battle, furnished with shields, with 
swelling banners. . . . They then speedily let fly forth showers of arrows, the 
serpents of Hilda, from their horn bows ; the spears on the ground hard stormed. 
Loud raged the plunderers of battle ; they sent their darts into the throng of the 
chiefs. . . . They that awhile before the reproach of the foreigners, the taunts of 
the heathen endured.’! 


Amongst all these unknown poets* there is one whose name we know, 
Cedmon, perhaps the old Cedmon who wrote the first hymn ; like hima, 
ut all events, who, paraphrasing the Bible with a barbarian’s vigour and 
sublimity, has shown the grandeur and fury of the sentiment with 
which the men of these times entered into their new religion. He also 
sings when he speaks; when he mentions the ark, it is with a profusion 
of poetic names, ‘the floating house, the greatest of floating chambers, 
the wooden fortress, the moving house, the cavern, the great sea-chest,’ 
and many more. Every time he thinks of it, he sees it with his mind, 
like a quick luminous vision, and each time under a new aspect, now 
undulating on the muddy waves, between two ridges of foam, now 
casting over the water its enormous shadow, black and high like a 
castle, ‘now enclosing in its cavernous sides’ the endless ferment of the 
caged beasts. Like the others, he wrestles with God in his heart; 
triumphs like a warrior in destruction and victory ; and in relating the 
death of Pharaoh, can hardly speak from anger, or see, because the blood 
mounts to his eyes: 


* The folk was affrighted, the flood-dread seized on their sad souls; ocean wailed — 
with death, the mountain heights were with blood besteamed, the sea foamed gore, 
erying was in the waves, the water full of weapons, a death-mist rose ; the Egyp- 
tians were turned back ; trembling they fled, they felt fear: would that host gladly 
find their homes ; their vaunt grew sadder: against them, as a cloud, rose the fell 
rolling of the waves ; there came not any of that host to home, but from behind 
inclosed them fate with the wave. Where ways ere lay sea raged. Their might 
was merged, the streams stood, the storm rose high to heaven ; the loudest army- 
ery the hostile uttered ; the air above was thickened with dying voices. . . . Ocean 
raged, drew itself up on high, the storms rose, the corpses rolled.’* 


Is the song of the Exodus more abrupt, more vehement, or more 
savage? ‘These men can speak of the creation like the Bible, because 
they speak of destruction like the Bible. They have only to look into 
their own minds, in order to discover an emotion sufficiently strong to 
raise their souls to the height of their Creator. ‘This emotion existed 





: Turner, Hist. of Anglo-Sazons, iii. book 9, ch. 8, p. 274. 
* Grein, Bibliothek der Angelsechsischen poesie. 
* Thorpe, Cadmon, 1832, xlvii. p. 206. 








> oes a >” ata — | Pa a al - 
. v ui rid : ik | 


cuaP. 1] THE SAXONS. 49 


already in their pagan legends; and Cadmon, in order to recount the 


origin of things, has only to turn to the ancient dreams, such as have 
been preserved in the prophecies of the Edda, 


‘There had not here as yet, save cavern-shade, aught been ; but this wide abyss 

q stood deep and dim, strange to its Lord, idle and useless ; on which looked with 

his eyes the King firm of mind, and beheld those places void of joys ; saw the dark 

. cloud lower in eternal night, swart under heaven, dark and waste, until this worldly 

_ ereation through the word existed of the Glory-King. . . . The earth as yet was 

not green with grass ; ocean cover'd, swart in eternal night, far and wide the dusky 
ways."! 


In this manner will. Milton hereafter speak, the descendant of the 
Hebrew seers, last of the Scandinavian seers, but assisted in the 
development of his thought by all the resources of Latin culture and 
civilisation. And yet he will add nothing to the primitive sentiment. 
Religious instinct is not acquired ; it belongs to the blood, and is in- 
herited with it. So it is with other instincts; pride in the first place, 
indomitable self-conscious energy, which sets man in opposition to all 
domination, and inures him against all grief. Milton’s Satan exists 
already in Cedmon’s, as the picture exists in the sketch; because both 
___ have their model in the race ; and Cedmon found his originals in the 
__ northern warriors, as Milton did in the Puritans: 
*Why shall I for his favour serve, bend to him in such vassalage? I may be 
a god as he. Stand by me, strong associates, who will not fail me in the strife. 
_ Heroes stern of mood, they have chosen me for chief, renowned warriors! with 
- such may one devise counsel, with such capture his adherents ; they are my zealous 
friends, faithful in their thoughts ; I may be their chieftain, sway in this realm ; 
thus to me it seemeth not right that I in aught need cringe to God for any good ; 
I will no longer be his vassal.’* 


He is overcome ; shall he be subdued? He is cast into the ‘ where 
torment they suffer, burning heat intense, in midst of hell, fire and 
broad flames: so also the bitter seeks smoke and darkness ;’ will he 
repent? At first he is astonished, he despairs; but it is a hero’s 
despair. 

* This narrow place is most unlike that other that we ere knew, high in heaven's 
kingdom, which my master bestow'd on me. . . . Oh, had I power of my hands, 
_ and might one season be without, be one winter's space, then with this host I— 
But around me lie iron bonds, presseth this cord of chain : I am powerless! me 
have so hard the clasps of hell, so firmly grasped! Here is a vast fire above and 
underneath, never did I see a loathlier landskip ; the flame abateth not, hot over 
“hell. Me hath the clasping of these rings, this hard-polish’d band, impeded in my 


1 Thorpe, Cadmon, ii. p. 7. A likeness exists between this song and corre- 
portions of the Hida. 

‘8 Ibid, iv. p. 18. 

* This is Milton’s opening also. (See Paradise Lost, Book i. verse 242, etc.) 
. One would think that he must have had some knowledge of Cedmon from the 
translation of Junius. 
























> 


50 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


course, debarr’d me from my way ; my feet are bound, my hands manacled, . . « 
so that with aught I cannot from these limb-bonds escape,”? 


As there is nothing to be done against God, it is with His mee 
creature, man, that he must busy himself. To him who has lost 
everything, vengeance is left; and if the conquered can enjoy this, he 
will find himself happy ; ‘he will sleep softly, even under his chains.’ 


VII. 


Here the foreign culture ceased. Beyond Christianity it could not 
graft upon this barbarous stock any fruitful or living branch. All the 
circumstances which elsewhere softened the wild sap, failed here. The 
Saxons found Britain abandoned by the Romans ; they had not yielded, 
like their brothers on the continent, to the ascendency of a superior 
civilisation; they had not become mingled with the inhabitants of the 
land; they had always treated them like enemies or slaves, pursuing 
like wolves those who escaped to the mountains of the west, oppressing 
like beasts of burden those whom they had conquered with the land. 
While the Germans of Gaul, Italy, and Spain became Romans, the 
Saxons retained their language, their genius and manners, and created 
in Britain a Germany outside of Germany. A hundred and fifty 
years after the Saxon invasion, the introduction of Christianity and the 
dawn of security attained by a society inclining to peace, gave birth to 
a kind of literature; and we meet with the venerable Bede, and later 
on, Alcuin, John Scotus Erigena, and some others, commentators, 
translators, teachers of barbarians, who tried not to originate but to 
compile, to pick out and explain from the great Greek and Latin 
encyclopedia something which might suit the men of their time. But 
the wars with the Danes came and crushed this humble plant, which, 
if left to itself, would have come to nothing.? When Alfred® the 
Deliverer became king, ‘there were very few ecclesiastics,’ he says, 
‘on this side of the Humber, who could understand in English their 
own Latin prayers, or translate any Latin writing into English, On 
the other side of the Humber I think there were scarce any; there 
were so few that, in truth, I cannot remember a single man south of 
the ‘Thames, when I took the kingdom, who was capable of it.’ He 
tried, like Charlemagne, to instruct his people, and turned into Saxon 
for their use several works, above all some moral books, as the de Con- 
solatione of Boethius ; but this very translation bears witness to the bar- 





? Thorpe, Cadmon, iv. p. 23. 

* They themselves feel their impotence and decrepitude. Bede, dividing the 
history of the world into six periods, says that the fifth, which stretches from the 
return out of Babylon to the birth of Christ, is the senile period ; the sixth is the 
present, alas decrepita, totius morte seculi consummanda. 

* Died in 901 ; Adhelm died 709, Bede die@ 735, Alcuin lived under Charle- 
magne, Erigena under Charles the Bald (843-877). 












CHAP.L] THE SAXONS. 51 


barism of his audience. He adapts the text in order to bring it down to 
their intelligence ; the pretty verses of Boethius, somewhat pretentious, 
laboured, elegant, crowded with classical allusions of a refined and 
polished style worthy of Seneca, become an artless, long drawn out 
and yet abrupt prose, like a nurse’s fairy tale, explaining everything, 
recommencing and breaking off its phrases, making ten turns about a 
single detail; so low was it necessary to stoop to the level of this 
new intelligence, which had never thought or known anything. Here 
follows the Latin of Boethius, so affected, so pretty, with the English 
translation affixed :-— 


* Quondam funera conjugis * It happened formerly that there was a harper 
Vates Threicius gemens, in the country called Thrace, which was in 
Postquam flebilibus modis Greece. The harper was inconceivably good. 
Silvas currere, mobiles His name was Orpheus. He had a very excel- 
Amnes stare coegerat, lent wife, called Eurydice, Then began men to 
Junxitque intrepidum latus say concerning the harper, that he could harp 
Sevis cerva leonibus, so that the wood moved, and the stones stirred 
Nee visum timuit lepus themselves at the sound, and wild beasts would 
Jam cantu placidum canem; run thereto, and stand as if they were tame ; so 
Cum flagrantior intima still, that though men or hounds pursued them, 

_ Fervor pectoris ureret, they shunned them not. Then said they, that 


~ Nee qui cuncta subegerant the harper’s wife should die, and her soul should 
Maulcerentdominum modi; be led tohell. Then should the harper become 
Immites superos querens, so sorrowful that he could not remain among the 
Infernas adiit domos. men, but frequented the wood, and sat on the 
Illic blanda sonantibus mountains, both day and night, weeping and 
Chordis carmina temperans, harping, so that the woods shook, and the 
Quidquid precipuis Dee rivers stood still, and no hart shunned any 
Matris fontibus hauserat, lion, nor hare any hound ; nor did cattle know 
Quod luctus dabat impotens, any hatred, or any fear of others, for the 
Quod luctum geminans amor, pleasure of the sound. Then it seemed to the 
Deflet Tartara commovens, harper that nothing in this world pleased him. 


Et dulci veniam prece Then thought he that he would seek the gods 
Umbrarum dominos rogat. of hell, and endeavour to allure them with his 
Stupet tergeminus novo harp, and pray that they would give him back 
Captus carmine janitor ; his wife. When he came thither, then should 
Que sontes agitant meta there come towards him the dog of hell, whose 
Ultrices scelerum Dee name was Cerberus,—he should have three heads, 
Jam meste lacrymis madent. —and began to wag his tail, and play with him 
Non Ixionium caput for his harping. Then was there also a very hor- 
Velox precipitat rota, tible gatekeeper, whose name should be Charon. 
Et longa site perditus He had also three heads, and he was very old. 


- Spernit flumina Tantalus. Then began the harper to beseech him that he 
Vultur dum satur est modis would protect him while he was there, and bring 
Non traxit Tityi jecur. him thence again safe. Then did he promise that 

- Tandem, vincimur, arbiter - to him, because he was desirous of the unaccus- 


- Umbrarum miserans ait. tomed sound, Then went he further until he 


Donemus comitem viro, met the fierce goddesses, whom the common 
Emptam carmine conjugem. people call Parcw, of whom they say, that they 


52 THE SOURCE. [Book I. 
Sed lex dona coerceat, know no respect for any man, but punish every — 
Nec, dum Tartara liquerit, man according to his deeds; and of whom they 
Fas sit lumina flectere. say, that they control every man’s fortune. Then 
Quis legem det amantibus! began he to implore their mercy. Then began 
Major lex fit amor sibi. they to weep with him. Then went he farther, 


Heu! noctis prope terminos and all the inhabitants of hell ran-towards him, 
Orpheus Eurydicem suam and led him to their king; and all began to speak 


Vidit, perdidit, occidit. with him, and to pray that which he prayed. 
Vos hee fabula respicit, And the restless wheel which Ixion, the king of 
Quicunque in superum diem the Lapithez, was bound to for his guilt, that 
Mentem ducere queritis. stood still for his harping. And Tantalus the 
Nam qui tartareum in specus king, who in this world was immoderately greedy, 
Victus lumina flexerit, and whom that same vice of greediness followed 


Quidquid precipuum trahit there, he became quiet. And the vulture should 
Perdit, dum videt inferos.’ cease, so that he tore not the liver of Tityus the 
Book 111. Metre 12. king, which before therewith tormented him. 
_And all the punishments of the inhabitants of 
hell were suspended, whilst he harped before the king. When he long and long 
had harped, then spoke the king of the inhabitants of hell, and said, Let us 
give the man his wife, for he has earned her by his harping. He then com- 
manded him that he should well observe that he never looked backwards after 
he departed thence; and said, if he looked backwards, that he should lose the. 
woman, Sut men can with great difficulty, if at all, restrain love! Wellaway! 
What! Orpheus then led his wife with him till he came to the boundary of light 
and darkness. ‘Then went his wife after him. When he came forth into the light, 
then looked he behind his back towards the woman. Then was she immediately 
lost to him. This table teaches every man who desires to fly the darkness of hell, 
and to come to the light of the true good, that he look not about him to his old 
vices, so that he practise them again as fully as he did before. For whosoever with 
full will turns his mind to the vices which he had before forsaken, and practises 
them, and they then fully please him, and he never thinks of forsaking them ; 
then loses he all his former good unless he again amend it.’ 


One speaks thus when an indistinct idea has to be impressed upon 
the mind. Boethius had for his audience senators, men of culture, who 
understood as well as we the slightest mythological allusion. Alfred is 
obliged to take them up and develop them, like a father or a master, 
who draws his little boy between his knees, and relates to him names, 
qualities, crimes and their punishments, which the Latin only hints at. 
But the ignorance is such that the teacher himself needs correction. 
He takes the Parce for the Erinyes, and gives Charon three heads like 
Cerberus. There is no adornment in his version; no jinesse as in the 
original. Alfrefl himself has hard work to be understood. What, for 
instance, becomes of the noble Platonic moral, the apt interpretation 
after the style of Iamblichus and Porphyry? It is altogether dulled. — 
He has to call everything by its name, and turn the eyes of his people 
to tangible and visible things. It is a sermon suited to his audience of 
thanes ; the Danes whom he had converted by the sword needed a clear 





* Fox's Alfred's Boethius, chap. 35, § 6, 1864. 














CHAP. I.] THE SAXONS. 53 


moral. If he had translated for them exactly the fine words of Boethius, 
‘they would have opened wide their big stupid eyes and fallen asleep. 
For the whole talent of an uncultivated mind lies in the force and 
oneness of its sensations. Beyond that it is powerless. The art of 
thinking and reasoning lies above it. These men lost all genius when 
they lost their fever-heat. They spun out awkwardly and heavily dry 
chronicles, a sort of historical almanacks. You might think them 
peasants, who, returning from their toil, came and scribbled with chalk 
on a smoky table the date of a year of scarcity, the price of corn, the 
changes in the weather, a death. Even so, side by side with the meagre 
Bible chronicles, which set down the successions of kings, and of Jewish 
massacres, are exhibited the exaltation of the psalms and the transports 
of prophecy. The same lyric poet can be at one time a brute and a 
genius, because his genius comes and goes like a disease, and instead of 
having it he simply is ruled by it. 


‘A.D. 611. This year Cynegils succeeded to the government in Wessex, and 
held it one-and-thirty winters. Cynegils was the son of Ceol, Ceol of Cutha, 
Cutha of Cynric. 

*614. This year Cynegils and Cnichelm fought at Bampton, and slew two 
thousand and forty-six of the Welsh. 

*678. This year appeared the comet-star in August, and shone every morning 
during three months like a sunbeam. Bishop Wilfrid being driven from his 
bishopric by King Everth, two bishops were consecrated in his stead. 

*901. This year died Alfred, the son of Ethelwulf, six nights before the mass 
of All Saints. He was king over all the English nation, except that part that was 
under the power of the Danes. He held the government one year and a half less 
than thirty winters ; and then Edward his son took to the government. 

*902. This year there was the great fight at the Holme, between the men of 
Kent and the Danes. 

£1077. This year were reconciled the King of the Franks, and William, King of 
England. But it continued only a little while. This year was London burned, 
one night before the Assumption of St. Mary, so terribly as it never was before 
since it was built."? 


It is thus the poor monks speak, with monotonous dryness, who after 
Alfred’s time gather up and take note of great visible events; sparsely 
scattered we find a few moral reflections, a passionate emotion, 
nothing more. In the tenth century we see King Edgar give a manor 
to a bishop, on condition that he will put into Saxon the monastic 
regulation written in Latin by Saint Benedict. Alfred himself was 
almost the last man of culture; he, like Charlemagne, became so only 

__ by dint of determination and patience. In vain the great spirits of this 
age endeavour to link themselves to the relics of the old civilisation, 
and to raise themselves above the chaotic and muddy ignorance in 
which the others wallow. They rise almost alone, and on their death 
the rest are again enveloped in the mire. It is the human beast that 





1 All these extracts are taken from Ingram's Sazon Chronicle, 1823. 


-  -, * ~~ Wy a ft) 
‘ at ow v At —_ 
p = : = 
; : .« 


54 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


remains master; genius cannot find a place amidst revolt and blood- 
thirstiness, gluttony and brute foree. Even in the little circle where 
he moves, his labour comes to nought. The model which he proposed 
to himself oppresses and enchains him in a cramping imitation; he 
aspires but to be a good copyist; he produces a gathering of centos 
which he calls Latin verses; he applies himself to the discovery of 
expressions, sanctioned by good models; he succeeds only in elaborat- 
ing an emphatic, spoiled Latin, bristling with incongruities. In place 
of ideas, the most profound amongst them serve up the defunct doc- 
trines of defunct authors. They compile religious manuals and philo- 
sophical manuals from the Fathers. Erigena, the most learned, goes 
to the extent of reproducing the old complicated dreams of Alex- 
andrian metaphysics. How far these speculations and reminiscences 
soar above the barbarous crowd which howls and bustles in the plain 
below, no words can express. There was a certain king of Kent in 
the seventh century who could not write. Imagine bachelors of theo- 
logy discussing before an audience of waggoners in Paris, not Parisian 
waggoners, but such as survive in Auvergne or in the Vosges. Among 
these clerks, who think like studious scholars in accordance with their 
favourite authors, and are doubly separated from the world as collegians 
and monks, Alfred alone, by his position as a layman and a practical 
man, descends in his Saxon translations and his Saxon verses to the 
common level; and we have seen that his effort, like that of Charle- 
magne, was fruitless. There was an impassable wall between the old 
learned literature and the present chaotic barbarism. Incapable, yet 
compelled, to fit into the ancient mould, they gave it a twist. Unable 
to reproduce ideas, they reproduced a metre. They tried to eclipse 
their rivals in versification by the refinement of their composition, and 
the prestige of a difficulty overcome. So, in our own colleges, the. 
good scholars imitate the clever divisions and symmetries of Claudian 
rather than the ease and variety of Virgil. They put their feet in 

§ irons, and showed their smartness by running in shackles; they 
weighted themselves with rules of modern rhyme and rules of ancient 
metre; they added the necessity of beginning each verse with the same 
letter that began the last. A few, like Adhelm, wrote square acrostics, 
in which the first line, repeated at the end, was found also to the left 
and right of the piece. Thus made up of the first and last letters of 
each verse, it forms a border to the whole piece, and the morsel of 
verse is like a morsel of tapestry. Strange literary tricks, which 

| changed the poet into an artisan! They bear witness to the ¢con- 
trariety which then impeded culture and nature, and spoiled at once 
the Latin form and the Saxon genius, 

Beyond this barrier, which drew an impassable line between civilisa- 
tion and barbarism, there was another, no less impassable, between the 
Latin and Saxon genius. The strong German imagination, in which 
glowing and obscure visions suddenly meet and violently clash, was 








CHAP, 1.] THE SAXONS, 55 


in contrast with the reasoning spirit, in which ideas gather and are 
developed in a regular order; so that if the barbarian, in his classical 
essays, retained any part of his primitive instincts, he succeeded only 
in producing a grotesque and frightful monster. One of them, this 
very Adhelm, a relative of King Ina, who sang on the town-bridge 
profane and sacred hymns alternately, too much imbued with Saxon 
poesy, simply to imitate the antique models, adorned his Latin prose 
and verse with all the ‘English magnificence.’ You might compare 
him to a barbarian who seizes a flute from the skilled hands of a player 
of Augustus’ court, in order to blow on it with inflated lungs, as if it 
were the bellowing horn of an aurochs. The sober speech of the 
Roman orators and senators becomes in his hands full of exaggerated 
and incoherent images; he heaps up his colours, and gives vent to the 
extraordinary and unintelligible nonsense of the later Skalds,—in short, 
he is a latinised Skald, dragging into his new tongue the ornaments of 
Scandinavian poetry, such as alliteration, by dint of which he con- 
gregates in one of his epistles fifteen consecutive words, all beginning 
with the same letter ; and in order to make up his fifteen, he introduces 
a barbarous Grecism amongst the Latin words.* Many times amongst 
the others, the writers of legends, you will meet with deformation of 
Latin, distorted by the outbreak of a too vivid imagination ; it breaks 
out even in their scholastic and scientific writing. Alcuin, in the 
dialogues which he made for the son of Charlemagne, uses like 
formulas the little poetic and trite phrases which abound in the 
national poetry. ‘What is winter? the exile of summer. What is 
spring? the painter of earth. What is the year? the world’s chariot. 
_ What is the sun? the splendour of the universe, the beauty of the 
firmament, the grace of nature, the glory of the day, the distributor 
of hours. What is the sea? the road of the brave, the frontier of 
earth, the hostelry of the waves, the source of showers.’ More, he 
ends his instructions with enigmas, in the spirit of the Skalds, such as 
we still find in the old manuscripts with the barbarian songs. It was 
the last feature of the national genius, which, when it labours to under- 
stand a matter, neglects dry, clear, consecutive deduction, to employ 
grotesque, remote, oft-repeated imagery, and replaces analysis by in- 
tuition. 


VIII. 
Such was this race, the last born of the sister races, Saxon, Latin, 





} William of Malmesbury’s expression. 

2 Primitus (pantorum proceram pretorumque pio potissimum paternoque pre- 
sertim privilegio) panegyricum poemataque passim prosatori sub polo promul- 
me. stridula yocum symphonia ac melodie cantile, magne carmine modulaturi 

ymnizemus. 


56 | THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


and Greek, who, in the decay of the other two, brings to the world a 
new civilisation, with a new character and genius. Inferior to these 
in many respects, it surpasses them in not a few. Amidst the woods 
and fens and snows, under a sad, inclement sky, gross instincts have 
gained the day. The German has not acquired gay humour, unre~ 
served facility, the idea of harmonious beauty; his great phlegmatic 
body continues fierce and coarse, greedy and brutal; his rude and 
unpliable mind is still inclined to savagery, and restive under culture. 
Duli and congealed, his ideas cannot expand with facility and freedom, 
with a natural sequence and an instinctive regularity. But this spirit, 
void of the sentiment of the beautiful, is all the more apt for the senti- 
ment of the true. The deep and incisive impression which he receives 
from contact with objects, and which as yet he can only express by a 
cry, will afterwards liberate him from the Latin rhetoric, and will vent 
itself on things rather than on words. Moreover, under the constraint 
of climate and solitude, by the habit of resistance and effort, his ideal 
is changed. Human and moral instincts have gained the empire over 
him ; and amongst them, the need of independence, the disposition for 
serious and strict manners, the inclination for devotion and veneration, 
the worship of heroism. Here are the foundations and the elements of 
a civilisation, slower but sounder, less careful of what is agreeable and 
elegant, more based on justice and truth.’ Hitherto at least the race 
is intact, intact in its primitive rudeness; the Roman cultivation could 
neither develop nor deform it. If Christianity took root, it was owing 
to natural affinities, but it produced no change in the native genius. 
Now approaches a new conquest, which is to bring this time men, as 
well as ideas. The Saxons, meanwhile, after the wont of German 
races, vigorous and fertile, have within the past six centuries multi- 


plied enormously. They were now about two millions, and the Nor- . 


man army numbered sixty thousand.? In vain these Normans become 
transformed, gallicised ; by their origin, and substantially in themselves 
they are still the relatives of those whom they conquered. In vain 
they imported their manners and their poesy, and introduced into the 
language a third part of its words; this language continues altogether 





* In Iceland, the country of the fiercest sea-kings, crimes are unknown; prisons 
have been turned to other uses ; fines are the only punishment. 

*See Pictorial History, i. 249. Following Doomsday Book, Mr. Turner 
reckons at three hundred thousand the heads of families mentioned. If each 
family consisted of five persons, that would make one million fiye hundred 
thousand people. He adds five hundred thousand for the four northern counties, 
for London and several large towns, for the monks and provincial clergy not 
enumerated. . . . We must accept these figures with caution. Still they agree 
with those of Macintosh, George Chalmers, and several others. Many facts show 


that the Saxon population was very numerous, and quite out of proportion to the 
Norman population. é 


a 





wer | 










"German in deat nd in tne! Though the grammar changed, 
it changed integrally, by an internal action, in the same sense as its 
continental cognates, At the end of three hundred years the con- 
"querors themselves were conquered; their speech became English ; 
= and owing to frequent intermarriage, the Engh blood ended by 
g the predominance over the Norman blood in their veins. The 

e finally remains Saxon. If the old poetic genius disappears after 
the Conquest, it is as a river disappears, and flows for a while under- 
_ ground. In five centuries it will emerge once more. 


P, + Warton, History of English Poetry, 1840, 8 vols., preface. 





ma, 


au saxoxs. ST 





“ 
“- mei 
‘ 


58 THE SOURCE. . [BOOK 1. 


CHAPTER IL 


The Normans. 


I. The protection and character of Feudalism. 

II. The Norman invasion ; character of the Normans—Contrast with the Saxons 
—The Normans are French—How they became so—Their taste and 
architecture—Their spirit of inquiry and their literature—Chivalry and 
amusements—Their tactics and their success. 

III. Bent of the French genius—Two principal characteristics; clear and con- 
secutive ideas—Psychological form of French genius—Prosaic histories ; 
lack of colour and passion, ease and discursiveness—Natural logic and 
clearness, soberness, grace and delicacy, refinement and cynicism—Order 
and charm—The nature of the beauty and of the ideas which the French © 
have introduced. . 

1V. The Normans in England—Their position and their tyranny—They implant 
their literature and language—They forget the same—Learn English by 
degrees—Gradually English becomes gallicised. 

V. They translate French works into English—Opinion of Sir John Mandeville 
—Layamon, Robert of Gloucester, Robert de Brunne—They imitate in 
English the French literature—Moral manuals, chansons, fabliaux, Gestes 
—Brightness, frivolity, and futility of this French literature—Barbarity 
and ignorance of the feudal civilisation—Geste of Richard Coeur de Lion, 
and voyages of Sir John Mandeville—Poorness of the literature introduced 
and implanted in England—Why it has not endured on the Continent or 
in England. 

VI. The Saxons in England—Endurance of the Saxon nation, and formation of 
the English constitution—Endurance of the Saxon character, and fermation 
of the English character. 

VII.-IX. Comparison of the ideal hero in France and England—Fabliaux of Reynard, 
and ballads of Robin Hood—How the Saxon character makes way for and 
supports political liberty Comparison of the condition of the Commons 
in France and England—Theory of the English constitution, by Sir John 
Fortescue—How the Saxon constitution makes way for and supports 
political liberty—Situation of the Church, and precursors of the Refor- 
mation in England—Piers Plowman and Wycliffe—How the Saxon 

_ character and the situation of the Norman Church make way for religious ~ 


reform—Incompleteness and importance of the national literature—Why 
it has not endured. 


L 


CENTURY and a half had passed on the Continent since, amid 
A the universal decay and dissolution, a new society had been 
formed, and new men had risen up. Brave men had at length made a 





CHAP. II] THE NORMANS. — 59 


league against the Norsemen and the robbers. They had planted their 
feet in the soil, and the moving chaos of the general subsidence had - 
become fixed by the effort of their great hearts and of their arms. At 
the mouths of the rivers, in the defiles of the mountains, on the margin 
of the waste borders, at all perilous passes, they had built their forts, 
each for himself, each on his own land, each with his faithful band; and 
they had lived like a scattered but watchful army, camped and con- 
federate in their castles, sword in hand, in front of theenemy. Beneath 
this discipline a formidable people had been formed, fierce hearts in 
strong bodies,’ intolerant of restraint, longing for violent deeds, born 
for constant warfare because steeped in permanent warfare, heroes and 
robbers, who, as an escape from their solitude, plunged into adven- 
tures, and went, that they might conquer a country or win Paradise, to 
Sicily, to Portugal, to Spain, to Livonia, to Palestine, to England. 


: Il. 

On the 27th of September 1066, at the mouth of the Somme, there 
was a great sight to be seen: four hundred large sailing vessels, more 
than a thousand transports, and sixty thousand men were on the point 
of embarking.* The sun shone splendidly after long rain; trumpets 
sounded, the cries of this armed multitude rose to heaven; on the far 
horizon, on the shore, in the wide-spreading river, on the sea which 
opens out thence broad and shining, masts and sails extended like a 
forest; the enormous fleet set out wafted by the south wind.* The 
people which it carried were said to have come from Norway, and one 
might have taken them for kinsmen of the Saxons, with whom they 
were to fight; but there were with them a multitude of adventurers, 
crowding from every direction, far and near, from north and south, 
from Maine and Anjou, from Poitou and Brittany, from Ile-de-France 
and Flanders, from 5. aaa and Burgundy ;* and, in short, the expe- 
dition itself was French. 





1 See, amidst other delineations of their manners, the first accounts of the first 
Crusade. Godfrey clove a Saracen down to his waist.—In Palestine, a widow was 
compelled, up to the age of sixty, to marry again, because no fief could rethain 
without a defender.—A Spanish leader said to his exhausted soldiers after a battle, 
*You are too weary and too much wounded, but come and fight with me against 
this other band ; the fresh wounds which we shall receive will make us forget 
those which we have.’ At this time, says the General Chronicle of Spain, kings, 
counts, and nobles, and all the knights, that they might be ever ready, kept their 


horses in the chamber where they slept with their wives. 


* For difference in numbers of the fleet and men, see Freeman, Hist. of the . 


Norm. Conq., 3 vols. 1867, iii. 381, 387.—Tr. 


. § For all the details, see Anglo-Norman Chronicles, iii. 4, as quoted by Aug. 
_ Thierry. I have myself seen the locality and the country. 

* Of three columns of attack at Hastings, two were composed of auxiliaries. 
Moreover, the chroniclers are not at fault upon this critical point ; they agree in 


stating that England was conquered by Frenchmen. 





60 THE SOURCE. ; [BOOK I. 


How comes it that, having kept its name, it had changed its nature? 
and what series of renovations had made a Latin out of a German 
people? The reason is, that this people, when they came io Neustria, 
were neither a national body, nor a pure race. They were but a band; 
and as such, marrying the women of the country, they introduced 
foreign blood into their children. They were a Scandinavian band, 
but deteriorated by all the bold knaves and all the wretched despera- 
does who wandered about the conquered country ;* and as such they 
received the foreign blood into their veins. Moreover, if the nomadic 
band was mixed, the settled band was much more so; and peace by its 
transfusions, like war by its recruits, had changed the character of 
the primitive blood. When Rollo, having divided the land amongst 
his followers, hung the thieves and their “abettors, people from every 
country gathered to him. Security, good stern justice, were so rare, 
that they were enough to re-people a land.? He invited strangers, say 
the old writers, ‘and made one people out of so many folk of different 
natures.’ This assemblage of barbarians, refugees, robbers, immi- 
grants, spoke Romance or French so quickly, that the second Duke, 
wishing to have his son taught Danish, had to send him to Bayeux, 
where it was still spoken. The great masses always form the race in 
the end, and generally the genius and language. Thus this people, so 
transformed, quickly became polished; the composite race showed itself 
of a ready genius, far more wary than the Saxons across the Channel, 
closely resembling their neighbours of Picardy, Champagne, and Ile- 
de-France. ‘The Saxons,’ says an old writer,’ ‘vied with each other 
in their drinking feats, and wasted their goods by day and night in 
feasting, whilst they lived in wretched hovels; the French and Nor- 
mans, on the other hand, living inexpensively in their fine large houses, 
were besides studiously refined in their food and careful in their habits.’ 
The former, still weighted by the German phlegm, were gluttons and 
drunkards, now and then aroused by poetical enthusiasm; the latter, 
made sprightlier by their transplantation and their alloy, felt the cravings 
of genius already making themselves manifest. ‘ You might see amongst 
them churches in every village, and monasteries in the cities, towering 
on high, and built in a style unknown before,’ first in Normandy, and 
presently in England.* Taste had come to them at once—that is, the 








1 It was a Rouen fisherman, a soldier of Rollo, who killed the Duke of France 
at the mouth of the Eure. Hastings, the famous sea-king, was a labourer’s son 
ms the neighbourhood of Troyes. 

* ‘In the tenth century,’ says Stendhal, ‘a man wished for two things: 1st, 
not to be slain ; 2d, to have a good leather coat.’ See Fontenelle’s Chronicle. 

* William of Malmesbury. 

* Pictorial History, i. 615. Churches in London, Sarum, Norwich, Durham, 
Chichester, Peterborough, Rochester, Hereford, Gloucester, Oxford, ete.—William 
of Malmesbury. 





CHAP. IL] THE NORMANS. 61 








































desire to please the eye, and to express a thought by outward repre- 
- sentation, which was quite a new idea: the circular arch was raised on 
one or on acluster of columns; elegant mouldings were placed about . 
the windows; the rose window made its appearance, simple yet, like 
___ the flower which gives it its name; and the Norman style unfolded 
____ itself, original and measured, between the Gothic style, whose richness 
~ it foreshadowed, and the Romance style, whose solidity it recalled. 
With taste, just as natural and just as quickly, was developed the 
spirit of inquiry. Nations are like children; with some the tongue is 
readily loosened, and they comprehend at once; with others it is 
loosened with difficulty, and they are slow of comprehension. The 
men before us had educated themselves nimbly, as Frenchmen do. 
_ They were the first in France who unravelled the language, fixing it 
and writing it so well, that to this day we understand their code and 
their poems. In a century and a half they were so far cultivated as to 
find the Saxons ‘unlettered and rude.’ That was the excuse they 
made for banishing them from the abbeys and all valuable ecclesiastical 
posts, And, in fact, this excuse was rational, for they instinctively 
hated gross stupidity. Between the Conquest and the death of King 
John, they established five hundred and fifty-seven schools in England. 
Henry Beauclerk, son of the Conqueror, was trained in the sciences; 
so were Henry 1. and his three sons: Richard, the eldest of these, was 
a poet, Lanfranc, first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, a subtle 
logician, ably argued the Real Presence; Anselm, his successor, the 
first thinker of the age, thought he had discovered a new proof of the 
existence of God, and tried to make religion philosophical by adopting 
as his maxim, ‘Crede ut intelligas.’, The notion was doubtless grand, 
especially in the eleventh century; and they could not have gone more 
promptly to work. Of course the science I speak of was but scholastic, 
and these terrible folios slay more understandings than they confirm. 
But people must begin as they can; and syllogism, even in Latin, even 
in theology, is yet an exercise of the mind and a proof of the under- 
standing. Among the continental priests who settled in England, one 
established a library; another, founder of a school, made the scholars 
perform the play of Saint Catherine; a third wrote in polished Latin, 
‘ epigrams as pointed as those of Martial.’ Such were the recreations of 
an intelligent race, eager for ideas, of ready and flexible genius, whose 
clear thought was not overshadowed, like that of the Saxon brain, by 
drunken conceits, and the vapours of a greedy and well-filled stomach. 
They loved conversations, tales of adventure. Side by side with their 
_ Latin chroniclers, Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, men 
_ of reflection, who could not only relate, but criticise here and there ; 
there were rhyming chronicles in the vulgar tongue, as those of Geoffroy 
_ Gaimar, Bénoit de Sainte-Maure, Robert Wace. Do not imagine that 





2 Ordericus Vitalis, 


62 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


their verse-writers were sterile of words or lacking in details. They 
were talkers, tale-tellers, speakers above all, ready of tongue, and never 
stinted in speech. Not singers by any means; they speak—this is 
their strong point, in their poems as in their chronicles. One of the 
earliest wrote the Song of Roland; upon this they accumulated a mul- 
titude of songs concerning Charlemagne and his knights, concerning 
Arthur and Merlin, the Greeks and Romans, King Horn, Guy of 
Warwick, every prince and every people. Their minstrels (trouvéres), 
like their knights, draw in abundance from Gauls, Franks, and Latins, 
and descend upon East and West, in the wide field of adventure. 
They address themselves to a spirit of inquiry, as the Saxons to enthu- 
siasm, and dilute in their long, clear, and flowing narratives the lively 
colours of German and Breton traditions; battles, surprises, single 
combats, embassies, speeches, processions, ceremonies, huntings, a 
variety of amusing events, employ their ready and adventurous imagi- 
nations. At first, in the Song of Roland, it is still kept in check; it 
walks with long strides, but only walks. Presently its wings have 
grown; incidents are multiplied; giants and monsters abound, the 
natural disappears, the song of the jongleur grows a poem under the 
hands of the trouvére; he would speak, like Nestor of old, five, even 
six years running, and not grow tired or stop. Forty thousand verses 
are not too much to satisfy their gabble; a facile mind, abundant, 
curious, descriptive, is the genius of the race. The Gauls, their fathers, 
used to delay travellers on the road to make them tell their stories, 
and boasted, like these, ‘ of fighting well and talking with ease.’ 

With chivalric poetry, they are not wanting in chivalry ; principally, 
it may be, because they are strong, and a strong man loves to prove his 
strength by knocking down his neighbours; but also from a desire of 
fame, and as a point of honour. By this one word honour the whole 
spirit of warfare is changed. Saxon poets painted it as a murderous 
fury, as a blind madness which shook flesh and blood, and awakened 
the instincts of the beast of prey ; Norman poets describe it as a tourney. 
The new passion which they introduce is that of vanity and gallantry ; 
Guy of Warwick dismounts all the knights in Europe, in order to deserve 
the hand of the prude and scornful Félice. The tourney itself is but 
a ceremony, somewhat brutal I admit, since it turns upon the break- 
ing of arms and limbs, but yet brilliant and French. To make a show 
of cleverness and courage, display the magnificence of dress and armour, ~ 
be applauded by and please the ladies,;—such feelings indicate men of 
greater sociality, more under the influence of public opinion, less the 
slaves of their own passions, void both of lyric inspiration and savage 
enthusiasm, gifted by a different genius, because inclined to other 
pleasures. 

Such were the men who at this moment were disembarking in Eng- 
land to introduce their new manners and a new spirit, French at bottom, 
in character and speech, though with special and provincial features; 








“CHAP. 11] THE NORMANS. 63 


of all the most determined, with an eye on the main chance, calculating, 
having the nerve and the dash of our own soldiers, but with the tricks 
and precautions of lawyers ; heroic undertakers of profitable enterprises ; 
having travelled in Sicily, in Naples, and ready to travel to Constanti- 
nople or Antioch, so it be to take a country or carry off money ; sharp 
politicians, accustomed in Sicily to hire themselves to the highest bidder, 
and capable of doing a stroke of business in the heat of the Crusade, 
like Bohémond, who, before Antioch, speculated on the dearth of his 
Christian allies, and would only open the town to them under condi- 
tion of their keeping it for himself; methodical and persevering con- 
querors, expert in administration, and handy at paper-work, like this 
very William, who was able to organise such an expedition, and such 
an army, and kept a written roll of the same, and who proceeded to 
register the whole of England in his Domesday Book. Sixteen days 
after the disembarkation, the contrast between the two nations was 
manifested at Hastings by its sensible effects. 

The Saxons ‘ate and drank the whole night. You might have 
seen them struggling much, and leaping and singing,’ with shouts of 
laughter and noisy joy." In the morning they crowded behind their 
palisades the dense masses of their heavy infantry, and with battle-axe 
hung round their neck awaited the attack. The wary Normans weighed 
the chances of heaven and hell, and tried to enlist God upon their side. 
Robert Wace, their historian and compatriot, is no more troubled by 
poetical imagination than they were by warlike inspiration; and on 
the eve of the battle his mind is as prosaic and clear as theirs.* The 
same spirit showed in the battle. They were for the most part bow- 
men and horsemen, well-skilled, nimble, and clever. Taillefer, the 
_ jongleur, who asked for the honour of striking the first blow, went 
_ singing, like a true French volunteer, performing tricks all the 
























1 Robert Wace, Roman du Rou. 

2 Ibid, Et li Normanz et li Franceiz 
Tote nuit firent oreisons, 
Et furent en aflicions. 
De lor péchiés conféz se firent 
As proveires les regehirent, 
Et qui n’en out proveires préz, 
A son veizin se fist conféz, 
Pour ¢o ke samedi esteit 
Ke la bataille estre debveit. 
Unt Normanz a pramis e yoé, 
Si com li cler l’orent loé, 
Ke & ce jor mez s'il veskeient, 
Char ni saune ne mangereient 
Giffrei, éveske de Coustances, 
A plusors joint lor pénitances. 
Cli regut li confessions 
Et dona li béneigons. 






64 THE SOURCE. ; [BOOK a 


while.’ Having arrived before the English, he cast his lance three times 
in the air, then his sword, and caught them again by the handle; and 
Harold’s clumsy foot-soldiers, who only knew how to cleave coats of mail 
by blows from their battle-axes, ‘were astonished, saying to one another 
that it was magic.’ As for William, amongst a score of prudent and 
cunning actions, he performed two well-calculated ones, which, in this 
sore embarrassment, brought him safe out of his difficulties. He ordered 
his archers to shoot into the air; the arrows wounded many of the 
Saxons in the face, and one of them pierced Harold in the eye. After 
this he simulated flight; the Saxons, intoxicated with joy and wrath, 
quitted their entrenchments, and exposed themselves to the lances of 
the knights. During the remainder of the contest they only make a 
stand by small companies, fight with fury, and end by being slaugh- 
tered. The strong, mettlesome, brutal race threw themselves on the 
enemy like a savage bull; the dexterous Norman hunters wounded 
them, subdued, and drove them under the.yoke. 


Il. 
What then is this French race, which by arms and letters makes 





1 Robert Wace, Roman du Rou: 
Taillefer ki moult bien cantout 
Sur un roussin qui tot alout 
Devant li dus alont cantant 
De Kalermaine e de Rolant, 
E d’Oliver et des vassals 
Ki moururent 4 Roncevals. 
Quant ils orent chevalchié tant 
K’as Engleis vindrent aprismant : 
‘Sires! dist Taillefer, merci ! 
Je vos ai languement servi. 
Tut mon servise me debvez, 
Hui, si vos plaist, me le rendez 
Por tout guerredun vos requier, 
Et si vos voil forment preier, 
Otreiez-mei, ke jo n’i faille, 
Li primier colp de la bataille.’ 
Et li dus répont : ‘Je l’otrei.’ 
Et Taillefer point & desrei ; 
Devant toz li altres se mist, 
Un Englez féri, si l’ocist. 
De sos le pis, parmie la pance, 
Li fist passer ultre la lance, 
A terre estendu l’abati. 
Poiz trait l’espée, altre féri. 
Poiz a crié: * Venez, venez! 
Ke fetes-vos? Férez, férez!’ 
Donc l’unt Englez avironé, 
Al secund colp k’il ou doné. 














































CHAP, 11] THE NORMANS. 65 


such a splendid entrance upon the world, and is so manifestly destined 
to rule, that in the East, for example, their name of Franks will be 
given to all the nations of the West? Wherein consists this new 
spirit, this precocious pioneer, this key of all middle-age civilisation? 
There is in every mind of the kind a fundamental activity which, 
\ when incessantly repeated, moulds its plan, and gives it its direction ; 
_ in town or country, cultivated or not, in its infuncy and its age, it 
spends its existence and employs its energy in conceiving an event or an 
object. This is its original and perpetual process; and whether it change 
its region, return, advance, prolong, or alter its course, its whole motion 
is but a series of consecutive steps; so that the least alteration in the 
length, quickness, or precision of its primitive stride transforms and 
regulates the whole course, as in a tree the structure of the first shoot 
determines the whole foliage, and governs the whole growth. When 
the Frenchman conceives an event or an object, he conceives quickly 
and distinctly; there is no internal disturbance, no previous fermenta- 
tion of confused and violent ideas, which, becoming concentrated and 
elaborated, end in a noisy outbreak. The movement of his intelligence 
is nimble and prompt like that of his limbs ; at once and without effort 
he seizes upon his idea. But he seizes that alone: he leaves on one 
side all the long entangling offshoots whereby it is entwined and 
twisted amongst its neighbouring ideas; he does not embarrass himself 
with nor think of them; he detaches, plucks, touches but slightly, and 
that is all. He is deprived, or if you prefer it, he is exempt from those 
sudden half-visions which disturb a man, and open up to him instan- 
taneously vast deeps and far perspectives. Images are excited by in- 
ternal commotion ; he, not being so moved, imagines not. He is only 
moved superficially ; he is without large sympathy; he does not per- 
ceive an object as it is, complex and combined, but in parts, with a 
discursive and superficial knowledge. That is why no race in Europe is 
_ less poetical. Let us look at their epics; none are more prosaic. They 
are not wanting in number: Zhe Song of Roland, Garin le Loherain, 
Ogier le Danois,? Berthe aux grands Pieds. There is a library of them. 
Though their manners are heroic and their spirit fresh, though they 
_ have originality, and deal with grand events, yet, spite of this, the 
narrative is as dull as that of the babbling Norman chroniclers. Doubt- 
less Homer is precisely like them; but his magnificent titles of rosy- 
fingered Morn, the wide-bosomed Air, the divine and nourishing 
Earth, the earth-shaking Ocean, come in every instant and expand 
their purple tint over the speeches and battles, and the grand abound- 
_ ing similes which intersperse the narrative tell of a people more inclined 
_ to rejoice in beauty than to proceed straight to fact. But here we 
_ have facts, always facts, nothing but facts: the Frenchman wants to 





} The idea of types is applicable throughout all physical and moral nature. 
i: 9 Danois is a contraction of le d’ Ardennois, from the Ardennes. —Tr. 
E 


dl 


66 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


know if the hero will kill the traitor, the lover wed the maiden; he 
must not be delayed by poetry or painting. He advances nimbly to 
the end of the story, not lingering for dreams of the heart or wealth of 
landscape. There is no splendour, no colour, in his narrative ; his style 
is quite bare, and without figures; you may read ten thousand verses 
in these old poems without meeting one. Shall we open the most 
ancient, the most original, the most eloquent, at the most moving point, 
the Song of Roland, when Roland is dying? ‘The narrator is moved, 
and yet his language remains the same, smooth, accentless, so pene- . 
trated by the prosaic spirit, and so void of the poetic! He gives an 
abstract of motives, a summary of events, a series of causes for grief, 
a series of causes for consolation." Nothing more. These men regard 
the circumstance or the action by itself, and adhere to this view. Their 
idea remains exact, clear, and simple, and does not raise up a similar 
image to be confused with itself, to colour or transform itself. It re- 
mains dry; they conceive the divisions of the object one by one, 
without ever collecting them, as the Saxons would, in a rude, impas- 
sioned, glowing fantasy. Nothing is more opposed to their genius than 
the genuine songs and profound hymns, such as the English monks were 
singing beneath the low vaults of their churches. They would be 
disconcerted by the unevenness and obscurity of such language. They 





1 Genin, Chanson de Roland: 
Co sent Rollans que la mort le trespent, 
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent ; 
Desuz un pin i est alet curant, 
Sur Vherbe verte si est culchet adenz ; 
Desuz lui met l’espée et Volifan ; 
Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent ; 
Pour ¢o l’at fait que il voelt veirement 
Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent, 
Li gentilz quens, qu’il fut mort cunquérant. 
Cleimet sa culpe, e menut e suvent, 
Pur ses pecchez en puroffrid lo guant. 
Li quens Rollans se jut desuz un pin, 
Envers Espaigne en ad turnet sun vis, 
De plusurs choses a remembrer le prist. 
De tantes terres cume li bers cunquist, 
De dulce France, des humes de sun lign, 
De Carlemagne sun seignor ki I’nurrit. 
Ne poet muer n’en plurt et ne susprit. 
Mais lui meisme ne volt mettre en ubli. 
Cleimet sa culpe, si priet Dieu mercit : 
‘ Veire paterne, ki unques ne mentis, 
Seint Lazaron de mort resurrexis, 
Et Daniel des lions guaresis, 
Guaris de mei l’arome de tuz perilz, 
Pur les pecchez que en ma vie fis.’ 








THE NORMANS. | 67 


are not capable of such an access of enthusiasm and such excess of 
emotions, They never cry out, they speak, or rather they converse, 
and that at moments when the soul, overwhelmed by its trouble, might 
be expected to cease thinking and feeling. Thus Amis, in a mystery- 
play, being leprous, calmly requires his friend Amille to slay his two 
sons, in order that their blood should heal him of his leprosy; and 
Awmille replies still more calmly." If ever they try to sing, even in 
heaven, ‘a roundelay high and clear,’ they will produce little rhymed 
arguments, as dull as the dullest conversations.* Pursue this litera- 
ture to its conclusion; regard it, like the Skalds, at the time of 
its decadence, when its vices, being exaggerated, display, like the 
Skalds, with marked coarseness the kind of mind which produced 
them. The Skalds fall off into nonsense; it loses itself into babble 
and platitude. The Saxon could not master his craving for exalta- 
tion; the Frenchman could not restrain the volubility of his tongue. 
He is too diffuse and too clear; the Saxon is too obscure and brief. 
The one was excessively agitated and carried away; the other ex- 
plains and develops without measure. From the twelfth century the 
Gestes degenerate into rhapsodies and psalmodies of thirty or forty 
thousand verses. Theology enters into them; poetry becomes an in- 
terminable, intolerable litany, where the ideas, developed and repeated 





















Sun destre guant & Deu en puroffrit. 
Seint Gabriel de sa main I’ad pris. 
Desur sun bras teneit le chef enclin, 
Juntes ses mains est alet & sa fin. 
Deus i tramist sun angle cherubin, 
Et seint Michel qu’on cleimet del péril 
Ensemble ad els seint Gabriel i vint, 
L’anme del cunte portent en pareis. 
1 Mon trés-chier ami débonnaire, 
Vous m’avez une chose ditte 
Qui n’est pas & faire petite 
Mais que l'on doit moult resongnier. 
Et nonpourquant, sanz eslongnier, 
Puisque garison autrement 
Ne povez avoir vraiement, 
Pour vostre amour les veciray, 
Et le sang vous apporteray. 
® Vraiz Diex, moult est excellente, 
Et de grant charité plaine, 
Vostre bonté souveraine. 
Car vostre grice présente, 
A toute personne humaine, 
Vraix Diex, moult est excellente, 
Puisqu elle a cuer et entente, 
Et que & ce desir l’amaine 
Que de vous servir se pame. 


a 


68 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 
ad infinitum, without an outburst of emotion nor an accent of originality, 
flow like a clear and insipid stream, and send off their reader, by dint 
of their monotonous rhymes, into a comfortable slumber. What a de- 
plorable abundance of distinct and facile ideas! We meet with it again 
in the seventeenth century, in the literary gossip which took place at 
the feet of men of distinction ; it is the fault and the talent of the race. 
With this involuntary art of conceiving, and isolating instantaneously 
and clearly each part of every object, people can speak, even for speak- 
ing’s sake, and for ever. 
Such is the primitive process; how will it be continued? Here 
appears a new trait in the French genius, the most valuable of all. It 
is necessary to comprehension that the second idea shall be continuous 
with the first; otherwise that genius is thrown out of its course and 
arrested: it cannot proceed by irregular bounds; it must walk step 
by step, on a straight road; order is innate in it; without study, and 
at first approach, it disjoints and decomposes the object or event, how- 
ever complicated and entangled it may be, and sets the parts one by 
one in succession to each other, according to their natural connection. 
True, it is still in a state of barbarism; yet intelligence is a reasoning 
faculty, which spreads, though unwittingly. Nothing is more clear than 
the style of the old French narrative and of the earliest poems: we do 
not perceive that we are following a narrator, so easy is the gait, soeven — 
the road he opens to us, so smoothly and gradually every idea glides 
into the next; and this is why he narrates so well. The chroniclers 
Villehardouin, Joinville, Froissart, the fathers of prose, have an ease 
and clearness approached by none, and beyond all, a charm, a grace, 
which they had not to go out of their way to find. Grace is a national 
possession in France, and springs from the native delicacy which has a 
horror of incongruities; the instinct of Frenchmen avoids violent shocks 
in works of taste as well as in works of argument; they desire that their 
sentiments and ideas shall harmonise, and not clash. Throughout they 
have this measured spirit, exquisitely refined." They take care, on a 
sad subject, not to push emotion to its limits; they avoid big words. 
Think how Joinville relates in six lines the death of the poor sick priest 
who wished to finish celebrating the mass, and ‘never more did sing, 
and died.’ Open a mystery-play—Théophile, the Queen of Hungary, 
for instance : when they are going to burn her and her child, she says 
two short lines about ‘this gentle dew which is so pure an innocent,’ 
naught beside. Take a fabliau, even a dramatic one: when the 
penitent knight, who has undertaken to fill a barrel with his tears, 
dies in the hermit’s company, he asks from him only one last gift: 
‘Do but put thy arms on me, and then I'll die embraced by thee.’ 
Could a more touching sentiment be expressed in more sober 
language? One has to say of their poetry what is said of certain 





? See H, Taine, La Fontaine and his Fables, p. 15. 










































CHAP. It.) THE NORMANS. 69 


pictures: This is made out of nothing. Is there in the world any- 
thing more delicately graceful than the verses of Guillaume de Lorris? 
Allegory clothes his ideas so as to dim their too great brightness; 
ideal figures, half transparent, float about the lover, luminous, yet in a 
cloud, and lead him amidst all the sweets of delicate-hued ideas to the 
rose, of which ‘the gentle odour embalms all the plain.’ This refine- 
ment goes so far, that in Thibaut of Champagne and in Charles of 
Orléans it turns to affectation and insipidity. In them impressions 
grow more slender; the perfume is so weak, that one often fails to 
catch it; on their knees before their lady they whisper their waggeries 
and conceits ; they love politely and wittily ; they arrange ingeniously 
in a bouquet their ‘painted words, all the flowers of ‘ fresh and 
beautiful language ;’ they know how to mark fleeting ideas in their 
flight, soft melancholy, uncertain reverie; they are as elegant as 
eloquent, and as charming as the most amiable abbés of the eighteenth 
century. This lightness of touch is proper to the race, and appears as 
plainly under the armour and amid the massacres of the middle ages 
as amid the salutations and the musk-scented, wadded clothgs of the 
last court. You will find it in their colouring as in their sentiments. 
They are not struck by the magnificence of nature, they see only her 
pretty side; they paint the beauty of a woman by a single feature, 
which is only polite, saying, ‘She is more gracious than the rose in 
May.’ They do not experience the terrible emotion, ravishment, 
sudden oppression of heart which is displayed in the poetry of 
neighbouring nations; they say directly, ‘She began to smile, which 
vastly became her.’ They add, when they are in a descriptive 
humour, ‘that she had a sweet and perfumed breath,’ and a body 
‘white as new-fallen snow ona branch.’ They do not aspire higher ; 
beauty pleases, but does not transport them. They delight in agreeable 
emotions, but are not fitted for deep sensations. The full rejuvenes- 
cence of being, the warm air of spring which renews and penetrates 
all existence, suggests but a pleasing couplet ; they remark in passing, 
‘ Now is winter gone, the hawthorn blossoms, the rose expands,’ and so 
pass on about their business. It is a light pleasure, soon gone, like 
that which an April landscape affords. For an instant the author 
glances at the mist of the streams rising about the willow trees, the 

t vapour which imprisons the brightness of the morning ; then, 
_ humming a burden of a song, he returns to his narrative. He seeks 

amusement, and herein lies his power. 

In life, as in literature, it is pleasure he aims at, not sensual 
| or emotion. He is gay, not voluptuous ; dainty, not a 
glutton. He takes love for a pastime, not for an intoxication. It is 
a pretty fruit which he plucks, tastes, and leaves. And we must 
remark yet further, that the best of the fruit in his eyes is the fact of 
its being forbidden. He says to himself that he is duping a husband, 
that ‘he deceives a cruel woman, and thinks he ought to obtain 


70 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


a pope’s indulgence for the deed.’? He wishes to be merry—it is 
the state he prefers, the end and aim of his life; and especially to 
laugh at another’s expense. The short verse of his fabliaux gambols 
and leaps like a schoolboy released from school, over all things re- 
spected or respectable; criticising the church, women, the great, the 
monks. Scoffers, banterers, our fathers have abundance of the same 


expressions and things; and the thing comes to them so naturally, _ 


that without culture, and surrounded by coarseness, they are as deli- 
cate in their raillery as the most refined. They touch upon ridicule 
lightly, they mock without emphasis, as it were innocently; their 
style is so harmonious, that at first sight we make a mistake, and do 
not see any harm in it. They seem artless; they look so very de- 
mure; only a word shows the imperceptible smile: it is the ass, for 
example, which they call the high priest, by reason of his padded 
cassock and. his serious air, and who gravely begins ‘to play the 
organ.’ At the close of the history, the delicate sense of comicality 
has touched you, though you cannot say how. They do: not call 
things by their name, especially in love matters; they let you guess 
it; they suppose you to be as sharp of intellect and as wary as them- 
selves.* Be sure that one might discriminate, embellish at times, even 
refine upon them, but that their first traits are incomparable. When 
the fox approaches the raven to steal the cheese, he begins as a 
hypocrite, piously and cautiously, and as one of the family. He 
calls the raven his ‘ good father Don Robart, who sings so well;’ he 
praises his voice, ‘so sweet and fine.’ ‘You would be the best singer 
in the world if you beware of nuts.’ Renard is a Scapin, an artist in 
the way of invention, not a mere glutton; he loves roguery for its 
own sake; he rejoices in his superiority, and draws out his mockery. 
When Tibert, the cat, by his counsel hung himself at the bell rope, 
wishing to ring it, he uses irony, smacks his lips and pretends to 
wax impatient against the poor fool whom he has caught, calls him 
proud, complains because the other does not answer, and because he 
wishes to rise to the clouds and visit the saints. And from be- 
ginning to end this long epic is the same; the raillery never ceases, 
and never fails to be agreeable. Renard has so much wit, that he is 
pardoned for everything. The necessity for laughter is national—so 
indigenous to the French, that a stranger cannot understand, and is 
shocked by it. This pleasure does not resemble physical joy in any 
respect, which is to be despised for its grossness; on the contrary, it 
sharpens the intelligence, and brings to light many a delicate and sug- 
gestive idea. The fabliaux are full of truths about men, and still more 
about women, about low conditions, and still more about high; it is 


1 La Fontaine, Contes, Richard Minutolo, 
® Parler lui veut d’une besogne 
Ou crois que peu conquerrérois 
Si la besogne vous nommois, 










































 [enar. m THE NORMANS. 71 


a method of philosophising by stealth and boldly, in spite of conven- 
tionalism, and in opposition to the powers that be. Thir tana bas 
nothing in common either with open satire, which is hideous because 
___ it is cruel; on the contrary, it provokes good humour. One soon sees 
that the jester is not ill-disposed, that he does not wish to wound: if 
he stings, it is as a bee, without venom; an instant later he is not 
thinking of it; if need be, he will take himself as an object of his 
pleasantry ; all he wishes is to keep up in himself and in us sparkling 
and pleasing ideas. Do we not see here in advance an abstract of the | 
whole French literature, the incapacity for great poetry, the quick and 
durable perfection of prose, the excellence of all the moods of conversa-. 
tion and eloquence, the reign and tyranny of taste and method, the art 
and theory of development and arrangement, the gift of being measured 
clear, amusing, and pungent? We have taught Europe how ideas 
fall into order, and which ideas are agreeable; and this is what our 
Frenchmen of the eleventh century are about to teach their Saxons 
during five or six centuries, first with the lance, next with the stick, 
_ next with the birch. 


IV. 


Consider, then, this Frenchman or Norman, this man from Anjou or 
Maine, who in his well-closed coat of mail, with sword and lance, came 
to seek his fortune in England. He took the manor of some slain Saxon, 
and settled himself in it with his soldiers and comrades, gave them land, 
houses, the right of levying taxes, on condition of their fighting under him 
and for him, as men-at-arms, marshals, standard-bearers ; it was a league 
in case of danger. In fact, they were in a hostile and conquered country, 
and they have to maintain themselves. Each one hastened to build for 
himself a place of refuge, castle or fortress, well fortified, of solid stone, 
with narrow windows, strengthened with battlements, garrisoned by 
soldiers, pierced with loopholes. Then these men went to Salisbury, 

' to the number of sixty thousand, all holders of land, having at least 
enough to support a complete horse or armour. There, placing their 
hands in William's, they promised him fealty and assistance ; and the 

. king’s edict declared that they must be all united and bound together 
like brothers in arms, to defend and succour each other. They are 
an armed colony, and encamped in their dwellings, like the Spartans 

_ amongst the Helots; and they make laws accordingly. When a French- 

man is found dead in any district, the inhabitants are to give up the 

_ murderer, unless they pay forty-seven marks as compensation ; if the 

: dead man is English, it rests with the people of the place to prove it by 

_ the oath of four near relatives of the deceased. They are to beware of 

Eis a stag, boar, or fawn; for an offence against the forest-laws they 

_ will lose their eyes. They have nothing of all their property assured 





1 At King Stephen’s death there were 1115 castles. 


72 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


to them except as alms, or on condition of tribute, or by taking the 
oath of homage. Here a free Saxon proprietor is made a body-slave 
on his own estate. Here a noble and rich Saxon lady feels on her 
shoulder the weight of the hand of a Norman valet, who is become by 
force her husband or her lover. There were Saxons of one sou, or of 
two sous, according to the sum which they brought to their masters; 
they sold them, hired them, worked them on joint account, like an ox” 
or an ass. One Norman abbot has his Saxon predecessors dug up, and 
their bones thrown without the gates. Another keeps men-at-arms, 
who reduce the recalcitrant monks to reason by blows of their swords. 
Imagine, if you can, the pride of these new lords, conquerors, strangers, 
masters, nourished by habits of violent activity, and by the savagery, 
ignorance, and passions of feudal life. ‘They thought they might do 
whatsoever they pleased,’ say the old chroniclers. ‘They shed blood 
indiscriminately, snatched the morsel of bread from the mouth of the 
wretched, and seized upon all the money, the goods, the land.’*? Thus 
‘all the folk in the low country were at great pains to seem humble 
before Ives Taillebois, and only to address him with one knee on the 
ground ; but although they made a point of paying him every honour, 
and giving him all and more than all which they owed him in the way 
of rent and service, he harassed, tormented, tortured, imprisoned them, 
set his dogs upon their cattle, . . . broke the legs and backbones of 
their beasts of burden, . . . and sent men to attack their servants on 
the road with sticks and swords.’ The Normans would not and could 
not borrow any idea or custom from such boors ;* they despised them 
as coarse and stupid. They stood amongst them, as the Spaniards 
amongst the Americans in the sixteenth century, superior in force and 
culture, more versed in letters, more expert in the arts of luxury. 
They preserved their manners and their speech. England, to all out- 
ward appearance—the court of the king, the castles of the nobles, the 
palaces of the bishops, the houses of the wealthy—was French; and the 
Scandinavian people, of whom sixty years ago the Saxon kings used to 
have poems sung to them, thought that the nation had forgotten its 
language, and treafed it in their laws as though it were no longer 
their sister. . 

It was then a French literature which was at this time domiciled 
across the Channel, * and the conquerors tried to make it purely French, 
purged from all Saxon alloy. They made such a point of this, that 
the nobles in the reign of Henry 11. sent their sons to France, to pre- 





1A. Thierry, Histoire de la Conquéte de l Angleterre, ii. 

2 William of Malmesbury. A. Thierry, ii. 20, 122-203. 

3*In the year 652,’ says Warton, i. 8, ‘it was the common practice of the 
Anglo-Saxons to send their youth to the monasteries of France for education ; and 
not only the language but the manners of the French were esteemed the most polite 
accomplishments.’ 

4 Warton, i. 5. 








CHAP. IL] THE NORMANS. 73 


serve them from barbarisms. ‘For two hundred years,’ says Higden,* 
‘children in scole, agenst the usage and manir of all other nations 
beeth compelled for to leve hire own langage, and for to construe hir 
lessons and hire thynges in Frensche.’ The statutes of the universities 
obliged the students to converse either in French or Latin. ‘ Gentil- 
men children beeth taught to speke Frensche from the tyme that they 
bith rokked in hire cradell ; and uplondissche men will likne himself to 
gentylmen, and fondeth with greet besynesse for to speke Frensche.’ 
Of course the poetry is French. The Norman brought his minstrel 
with him; there was Taillefer, the jongleur, who sang the Song of 
Roland at the battle of Hastings ; there was Adeline, the jongleuse, who 
received an estate in the partition which followed the Conquest. The 
Norman who ridiculed the Saxon kings, who dug up the Saxon saints, 
and cast them without the walls of the church, loved none but French 
ideas and verses. It was into French verse that Robert Wace rendered 
the legendary history of the England which was conquered, and the 
actual history of the Normandy in which he continued to live. Enter 
one of the abbeys where the minstrels come to sing, ‘where the clerks 
after dinner and supper read poems, the chronicles of kingdoms, the 
wonders of the world,’* you will only find Latin or French verses, 
_ Latin or French prose. What becomes of English? Obscure, de- 
spised, we hear it no more, except in the mouths of degraded franklins, 
outlaws of the forest, swineherds, peasants, the lowest orders. It is no 
longer, or scarcely written; gradually we find in the Saxon chronicle 
that the idiom alters, is extinguished ; the chronicle itself ceases within 
a century after the Conquest.* The people who have leisure or 
security enough to read or write are French; for them authors devise 
and compose; literature always adapts itself to the taste of those who 
can appreciate and pay for it. Even the English* endeavour to write 
in French: thus Robert Grostéte, in his allegorical poem on Christ; 
Peter Langtoft, in his Chronicle of England, and in his Life of Thomas 
a& Becket; Hugh de Rotheland, in his poem of Hippomedon; John 
Hoveden, and many others. Several write the first half of the verse in 
English, and the second in French; a strange sign of the ascendency 
which is moulding and oppressing them. Still, in the fifteenth cen- 
tury,’ many of these poor folk are employed in this task; French is 
the language of the court, from it arose all poetry and elegance; he is 





1 Trevisa’s translation of the Polycronycon. 

* Statutes of foundation of New College, Oxford. In the abbey of Glastonbury, 
in 1247: Liber de excidio Troje, gesta Ricardi regis, gesta Alerandri Magni, etc. 
In the abbey of Peterborough: Amys et Amelion, Sir Tristam, Guy de Bourgogne, 
gesta Otuclis, les prophéties de Merlin, le Charlemagne de Turpin, la destruction 
de Troie, etc. Warton, ibidem. . 

3 In 1154. * Warton, i. 72-78. 

In 1400. Warton, ii. 248. Gower died in 1408 ; his French ballads belong 
to the end of the fourteenth century, 


eee 


74 THE SOURCE, [BOOK 1, 


but a clodhopper who is inapt at that style. They apply themselves 
to it as our old writers did to Latin verses; they are gallicised as those 
were latinised, by constraint, with a sort of fear, knowing well that 
they are but scholars and provincials. Gower, one of their best poets, 
at the end of his French works, excuses himself humbly for not having 
‘de Frangais la faconde. Pardonnez moi,’ he says, ‘que de ce je fors- 
voie; je suis Anglais.’ ' 
And yet, after all, neither the race nor the tongue has perished. 
It is necessary that the Norman should learn English, in order to com- 
mand his serfs; his Saxon wife speaks it to him, and his sons receive 
it from the lips of their nurse; the contagion is strong, for he is 
obliged to send them to France, to preserve them from the jargon 
which on his domain threatens to overwhelm and spoil them. From 
generation to generation the contagion spreads; they breathe it in the 
air, with the foresters in the chase, the farmers in the field, the sailors 
on the ships: for these rough people, shut in by their animal existence, 
are not the kind to learn a foreign language; by the simple weight of 
their dulness they impose their idiom, at all events such as pertains to 
living terms. Scholarly speech, the language of law, abstract and 
philosophical expressions,—in short, all words depending on reflection 
and culture may be French, since there is nothing to prevent it. This 
is just what happens; these kind of ideas and this kind of speech are 
not understood by the commonalty, who, not being able to touch them, 
cannot change them. This produces a French, a colonial French, 
doubtless perverted, pronounced with closed mouth, with a contortion 
of the organs of speech, ‘ after the school of Stratford-atte-Bow ;’ yet it 
is still French, On the other hand, as regards the speech employed 
about common actions and sensible objects, it is the people, the Saxons, 
who fix it; these living words are too firmly rooted in his experience 
to allow of his removing them, and thus the whole substance of the 
language comes from him. Here, then, we have the Norman who, 
slowly and constrainedly, speaks and understands English, a deformed, 
gallicised English, yet English, vigorous and original; but he has 
taken his time about it, for it has required two centuries. It was only 
under Henry m1. that the new tongue is complete, with the new con- 
stitution, and that, after the like fashion, by alliance and intermixture ; 
the burgesses come to take their seats in Parliament with the nobles, at 
the same time that Saxon words settle down in the language side by 
side with French words. 


¥. 
So was modern English formed, by compromise, and the necessity 
of being understood. But one can well imagine that these nobles, even 


while speaking the growing dialect, have their hearts full of French 
tastes and ideas; France remains the land of their genius, and the 
literature which now begins, is but translation. Translators, copyists, 





CHAP. I.] THE NORMANS. 75 


imitators—there is nothing else. England is a distant province, which 
is to France what the United States were, thirty years ago, to Europe : 
she exports her wool, and imports her ideas. Open the Voyage and 
Travaile of Sir John Maundeville,* the oldest prose-writer, the Villebar- 
douin of the country: his book is but the translation of a translation.” 
He writes first in Latin, the language of scholars; then in French, the 
language of society ; finally he reflects, and discovers that the barons, 
his compatriots, by governing the rustic Saxons, have ceased to speak 
their own Norman, and that the rest of the nation never knew it; he 
translates his book into English, and, in addition, takes care to make 
it plain, feeling that he speaks to less expanded understandings. He 
says in French : 

*Tl advint une fois que Mahomet allait dans une chapelle ot il y avait un 
saint ermite. Il entra en la chapelle ot il y avait une petite huisserie et basse, 
et était bien petite la chapelle ; et alors devint la porte si grande qu'il semblait que 
ce fut la porte d’un palais.’ 

He stops, recollects himself, wishes to explain himselt better for his 
readers across the Channel, and says in English: 


‘And at the Desertes of Arabye, he wente in toa Chapelle where a Sears 




































thing, and had but a lytill Dore and a low, than the Entree began to wexe so gret 
and so large, and so highe, as though it had ben of a gret Mynstre, or the Zate of 
a Paleys.’* 

You perceive that he amplifies, and thinks himself bound to clinch and 
_ drive in three or four times in succession the same idea, in order to get 
it into an English brain; his thought is drawn out, dulled, spoiled in 
_ the process. So that, being all a copy, the new literature is mediocre, 
and repeats that which went before, with fewer merits and greater 
faults, 

Let us see, then, what our Norman baron gets translated for him: 
first, the chronicles of Geoffroy Gaimar and Robert Wace, which con- 





' He wrote in 1356, and died in 1372. 

? * And for als moche as it is longe time passed that ther was no generalle Pas- 
sage ne Vyage over the See, and many Men desiren for to here speke of the holy 
Lond, and han thereof gret Solace and Comfort, I, John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle 
be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the town of Seynt-Albones, 
passed the See in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu-Crist 1322, in the Day of Seynt Michelle, 
and hidreto have been longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe 
_ ‘manye dyverse londes, and many Provynces, and Kingdomes, and Iles. 

4 ‘And zee shulle undirstonde that I have put this Boke out of Latyn into 
_ Frensche, and translated it azen out of Frensche into Englyssche, that every Man 
of my Nacioun may undirstonde it.'"—Sir John Maundeville's Voyage and Travaile, 
ed. Halliwell, 1866, prologue, p. 4. 

8 Ibid. xii. p. 139. If fo confessed that the oalginal on which Wace depended 
_ for his ancient History of England is the Latin compilation of Geoffrey of 


duelte. And whan he entred in to the Chapelle that was but a lytille and a low 


errs 


76 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


sist of the fabulous history of England continued up to their day, a 
dull-rhymed rhapsody, turned into English in a rhapsody no less dull. 
The first Englishman who attempts it is Layamon,’ a monk of Ernely, 
still fettered in the old idiom, who sometimes happens to rhyme, some- 
times fails, altogether barbarous and childish, unable to develop a con- 
tinuous idea, babbling in little confused and incomplete phrases, after the 
fashion of the ancient Saxon; after him a monk, Robert of Gloucester, ~ 
and a canon, Robert of Brunne, both as insipid and clear as their 
French models, having become gallicised, and adopted the significant 
characteristic of the race, namely, the faculty and habit of easy narra- 
tion, and seeing moving spectacles without deep emotion, of writing 
prosaic poetry, of discoursing and developing, of believing that phrases 
ending in the same sounds form real poetry. Our honest English 
versifiers, like their preceptors in Normandy and Ile-de-France, gar- 
nished with rhymes their dissertations and histories, and called them 
poems. At this epoch, in fact, on the Continent, the whole learning of 
the schools descends into the street; and Jean de Meung, in his poem 





1 Extract from the account of the proceedings at Arthur’s coronation given by 
Layamon, in his translation of Wace, executed about 1180. Madden’s Layamon, 
1847, ii. p. 625, et passim : 

Tha the king igeten hafde 
And al his mon-weorede, 
Tha bugen ut of burhge 
Theines swithe balde. 

Alle tha kinges, 

And heore here-thringes. 
Alle tha biscopes, 

And alle tha clerckes, 

All the eorles, 

Aud alle tha beornes. 

Alle tha theines, 

Alle the sweines, 

Feire iscrudde, 

Helde geond felde. 

Summe heo gunnen zruen, 
Summe heo gunnen urnen, 
Summe heo gunnen lepen, 
Summe heo gunnen sceoten, 
Summe heo wrestleden . 
And wither-gome makeden, 
Summe heo on uelde 
Pleouweden under scelde, 
Summe heo driven balles 
Wide geond tha feldes. 
Monianes kunnes gomen 
Ther heo gunnen driuen. 
And wha swa mihte iwinne 
Wurthscipe of his gomene, 












CHAP. I1.] THE NORMANS, 77 


of la Rose, is the most tedious of doctors. So in England, Robert of 
Brunne transposes into verse the Manuel des Péchés of Bishop Grostéte ; 
Adam Davie,’ certain Scripture histories; Hampole* composes the 
Pricke of Conscience. The titles alone make one yawn; what of the 
text ? 
‘Mankynde mad ys to do Goddus wylle, 
And alle Hys byddyngus to fulfille ; 
For of al Hys makyng more and les, 
Man most principal creature es, 
_ Al that He made for man hit was done, 
As ye schal here after sone,’ 


There isa poem! You did not think so; call it a sermon, if you will 
give it its proper name. It goes on, well divided, well prolonged, 
flowing and hollow; the literature which contains ‘and resembles it 
bears witness of its origin by its loquacity and its clearness. 

It bears witness to it by other and more agreeable features. Here 

and there we find divergences more or less awkward into the domain of 
genius; for instance, a ballad full of quips against Richard, King of 
the Romans, who was taken at the battle of Lewes. Moreover, charm 
is not lacking, nor sweetness either. No one has ever spoken so 
‘lively and so well to the ladies as the French of the Continent, and 
they have not quite forgotten this talent while settling in England. 
‘You perceive it readily in the manner in which they celebrate the 
Virgin. Nothing could be more different from the Saxon sentiment, 
which is altogether biblical, than the chivalric adoration of the sovereign 
Lady, the fascinating Virgin and Saint, who was the real deity of the 
middle ages. It breathes in this pleasing hymn: 





Hine me ladde mid songe 
At foren than leod kinge ; 
And the king, for his gomene, 
Gaf him geven gode. 
Alle tha quene 
The icumen weoren there, 
And alle tha lafdies, 
Leoneden geond walles, 
To bihalden the dugethen, 
And that fole pleie. 
This ileste threo deges, 
Swule gomes and swulc pleges, 
Tha, at than veorthe die 
The king gon to spekene 
And agef his goden cnihten 
All heore rihten ; 
He gef seolver, he gwef gold, 
He gef hors, he gef lond, 
Castles, and clothes eke ; 
His monnen he iquende, 

3 About 1312. 3 About 1349. ® Warton, ii. 36. 


78 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


‘Blessed beo thu, lavedi, ; 
Ful of hovene blisse ; 
Swete flur of parais, 
Moder of milternisse. ... 
TI-blessed beo thu, Lavedi, 
So fair and so briht ; 

Al min hope is uppon the, 

Bi day and bi nicht... . 
Bricht and scene quen of storre, 
So me liht and lere. 

In this false fikele world, 

So me led and steore. * 





There is but a short and easy step between this tender worship of the 
Virgin and the sentiments of the court of love. The English rhymesters 
take it; and when they wish to praise their earthly mistresses, they 
borrow, here as elsewhere, our ideas and very form of verse. One 
compares his lady to all kinds of precious stones and flowers; others 
sing truly amorous songs, at times sensual : 


‘ Bytuene Mershe and Aueril, 
When spray biginneth to springe, 
The lutel foul hath hire wyl 
On hyre lud to synge, 

Ich libbe in loue longinge 

For semlokest of alle thynge. 

He may me blysse bringe, 

Icham in hire baundoun. 

An hendy hap ich abbe yhent, 
Ichot from heuene it is me sent. 
From all wymmen my love is lent, 
And lyht on Alysoun.’ ? 


Another sings : 
‘Suete lemmon, y preye the, of loue one speche, 
Whil y lyue in world so wyde other nulle y seche. 


With thy loue, my suete leof, mi bliss thou mihtes eche 
A suete cos of thy mouth mihte be my leche.’® 


Is not this the lively and warm imagination of the south? They speak 
of springtime and of love, ‘the fine and lovely weather,’ like trouvéres, 
even like troubadours. The dirty, smoke-grimed cottage, the black — 
feudal castle, where all but the master lie higgledy-piggledy on the 
straw in the great stone hall, the cold rain, the muddy earth, make 
the return of the sun and the warm air delicious. 


‘Sumer is i-cumen in, 
Lhude sing cuceu: 





1 Time of Henry 11., Reliquie Antique, edited by Messrs. Wright und Halli- 
well, i. 102. 
* About 1278. Warton, i. 28, ; 8 Ibid. i. 31, 


; See 2 ee Fe 
4  OHAP. 1} "HE NORMANS. "9 


Groweth sed, and bloweth med, 
And springeth the wde nu. 
Sing cucen, cuccu. 
Awe bleteth after lomb, 
Llouth after calue cu, 
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth : 
Murie sing cuccu, 
Quceu, cuccu. 
Wel singes thu cuccu ; 
Ne swik thu nauer nu. 
Sing, cuccu nu, 
Sing, cuccu.? 


Here are glowing pictures, such as Guillaume de Lorris was writing at 
the same time, even richer and more lively, perhaps because the poet 
found here for inspiration that love of country life which in England is 
deep and national. Others, more imitative, attempt pleasantries like 
those of Rutebeuf and the fabliaux, frank quips,’ and even satirical, 
loose waggeries. Their true aim and end is to hit out at the monks. 
In every French country, or country which imitates France, the most 
manifest use of convents is to furnish material for sprightly and scan- 
dalous stories. One writes, for instance, of the kind of life they live at 


the abbey of Cocagne: 


* There is a wel fair abbei, 

Of white monkes and of grei. 

Ther beth bowris and halles : 

Al of pasteiis beth the wallis, 

Of fleis, of fisse, and rich met, 

The likfullist that man may et. 
Fluren cakes beth the schingles alle, 
Of cherche, cloister, boure, and halle. 
The pinnes beth fat podinges 

Rich met to princes and kinges. . . . 
Though paradis be miri and bright 
Cokaign is of fairir sight. . . . 
Another abbei is ther bi, 
Forsoth a gret fair nunnerie. . . . 
When the someris dai is hote 

The young nunnes takith a bote . .. 
And doth ham forth in that river 
Both with ores and with stere. . . . 
And each monk him takes on, 

And snelliche berrith forth har prei 
To the mochil grei abbei, 

And techith the nunnes an oreisun, 
With iamblene up and down.’ 









~ 2 Warton, i. 30. : 
* Poem of the Owl and Nightingale, who dispute as to which has the finest 


80 THE SOURCE. — [Book I. 


This is the triumph of gluttony and feeding. Moreover many things 
could be mentioned in the middle ages, which are now unmention- ~ 
able. 

But it was the poems of chivalry, which represented to him in fair 
language his own mode of life, that the baron preferred to have trans- 
lated. He desired that his trouvére should set before his eyes the 
magnificence which he has spread around him, and the luxury and 
enjoyments which he has introduced from France. Life at that time, 
without and even during war, was a great pageant, a brilliant and 
tumultuous kind of féte. When Henry m. travelled, he took with him 
a great number of knights, foot-soldiers, baggage-waggons, tents, war- 
horses, comedians, courtesans, and their overseers, cooks, confectioners, 
posture-makers, dancers, barbers, go-betweens, hangers-on.’ In the 
morning when they start, the assemblage begins to shout, sing, hustle 
each other, make racket and rout, ‘as if hell were let loose,’ William 
Longchamps, even in time of peace, would not travel without a 
thousand horses by way of escort. When Archbishop 4 Becket came 
to France, he entered the town with two hundred knights, a number 
of barons and nobles, and an army of servants, all richly armed and 
equipped, he himself being provided with four-and-twenty suits; two 
hundred and fifty children walked in front, singing national songs; 
then dogs, then carriages, then a dozen war-horses, each ridden by an 
ape and a man; then equerries, with shields and horses; then more 
equerries, falconers, a suite of domestics, knights, priests; lastly, the 
archbishop himself, with his particular friends. Imagine these pro- _ 
cessions, and also these entertainments; for the Normans, after the 
Conquest, ‘ borrowed from the Saxons the habit of excess in eating and 
drinking.’* At the marriage of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Corn- 
wall, they provided thirty thousand dishes.* Add to this, that they 
still continued to be gallant, and punctiliously performed the great _ 
precept of the love courts; be assured that in the middle age the 
sense of love was no more idle than the others. Mark also that tourneys 
were plentiful; a sort of opera prepared for their own entertainment. 
So ran their life, full of adventure and adornment, in the open air and 
in the sunlight, with show of cavaleades and arms; they act a pageant, 
and act it with enjoyment. Thus the King of Scots, having come to 
London with a hundred knights, at the coronation of Edward 1, they 
all dismounted, and made over their horses and superb caparisons to the 
people; as did also five English lords, emulating their example. In 





1 Letter of Peter of Blois. 2 William of Malmesbury. 

* At the installation-feast of George Nevill, Archbishop of York, the brother of 
Guy of Warwick, there were consumed, 104 oxen and 6 wild bulls, 1000 sheep, 
304 calves, as many hogs, 2000 swine, 500 stags, bucks, and does, 204 kids, 
22,802 wild or tame fowl, 300 quarters of corn, 300 tuns of ale, 100 of wine, a 
pipe of hypocras, 12 porpoises and seals, e 











CHAP. If, ] THE NORMANS. 81 


the midst of war they took their pleasure. Edward mm., in one of 
his expeditions against the King of France, took with him thirty 
falconers, and made his campaign alternately hunting and fighting.' 
Another time, says Froissart, the knights who joined the army carried 
a plaster over one eye, having vowed not to remove it until they had 
performed an exploit worthy of their mistresses. Out of the very exube- 
rancy of genius they practised the art of poetry ; out of the buoyancy 
of their imagination they made a sport of life. ‘Edward m. built at 
Windsor a round hall and a round table; and in one of his tourneys in 
London, sixty ladies, seated on palfreys, led, as in a fairy tale, each her 
knight by a golden chain. Was not this the triumph of the gallant 
and frivolous French fashions? His wife Philippa sat as a model to 
the artists for their Madonnas. She appeared on the field of battle; 
listened to Froissart, who provided her with moral-plays, love-stories, 
and ‘ things fair to listen to.’ At once goddess, heroine, and scholar, 
and all this so agreeably, was she not a true queen of polite chivalry ? 
Now, as in France under Louis of Orleans and the Dukes of Burgundy, 
the most elegant flower of this romanesque civilisation appeared, void 
of common sense, given up to passion, bent on pleasure, immoral and 
brilliant, but, like its neighbours of Italy and Provence, for lack of 
serious intention, it could not last, 

Of all these marvels the narrators make display in their accounts. 
Follow this picture of the vessel which takes the mother of King 
Richard into England :— 


* Swlk on ne seygh they never non ; 
All it was whyt of huel-bon, 
And every nayl with gold begrave ; 
Off pure gold was the stave. 
Her mast was of yvory ; 

_ Off samyte the sayl wytterly. 
Her ropes wer off tuely sylk, 
Al so whyt as ony mylk. 
That noble schyp was al withoute, 
With clothys of golde sprede aboute ; 
And her loof and her wyndas, 
Off assure forsothe it was,’ ? 


On such subjects they never ruandry. When the King of Hungary 
wishes to console his afflicted daughter, he proposes to take her to the 
chase in the following style :— 


* To-morrow ye shall in hunting fare ; 
And yede, my daughter, in a chair; 





1 These prodigalities and refinements grew to excess under his grandson 
Richard 1. 


82 


THE SOURCE. 


It shall be covered with velvet red, 

And cloths of fine gold all about your head, 
With damask white and azure blue, 

Well diapered with lilies new. 

Your pommels shall be ended with gold, 
Your chains enamelled many a fold, 

Your mantle of rich degree, 

Purple pall and ermine free. 

Jennets of Spain that ben so light, 
Trapped to the ground with velvet bright. 
Ye shall have harp, sautry, and song, 
And other mirths you among. 

Ye shall have Rumney and Malespine, 
Both hippocras and Vernage wine ; 
Montrese and wine of Greek, 

Both Algrade and despice eke, 

Antioch and Bastarde, 


~ Pyment also and garnarde; 


Wine of Greek and Muscadel, 

Both clare, pyment, and Rochelle, 

The reed your stomach to defy, 

And pots of osey set you by. 

You shall have venison ybake, 

The best wild fowl that may be take ; 

A leish of harehound with you to streek, 
And hart, and hind, and other like. 

Ye shall be set at such a tryst, 

That hart and hynd shall come to you fist, 
Your disease to drive you fro, 

To hear the bugles there yblow. 
Homeward thus shall ye ride, 

On hawking by the river’s side, 

With gosshawk and with gentle falcon, 
With bugle-horn and merlion. 

When you come home your menie among, 
Ye shall have revel, dance, and song ; 
Little children, great and small, 

Shall sing as does the nightingale. 

Then shall ye go to your evensong, 
With tenors and trebles among. 
Threescore of copes of damask bright, 
Full of pearls they shall be pight. 

Your censors shall be of gold, 

Indent with azure many a fold ; 

Your quire nor organ song shall want, 
With contre-note and descant. 

The other half on organs playing, 

With young children full fain singing. 
Then shall ye go to your supper, 

And sit in tents in green arber, 

With cloth of arras pight to the ground, 
With sapphires set of diamond, 





— = _ a ~a. at £ ee. * ** 
—_ ye a. iv : 
7 - rY - 
ao 
As eS, 








CHAP. U.] THE NORMANS, 83 


A hundred knights, truly told, 

Shall play with bowls in alleys cold, 
Your disease to drive away ; 

To see the fishes in pools play, 

To a drawbridge then shall ye, 

Th’ one half of stone, th’ other of tree ; 

A barge shall meet you full right, 

With twenty-four oars full bright, 

With trumpets and with clarion, 

The fresh water to row up and down. ... 
Forty torches burning bright * 
At your bridge to bring you light. 

Into your chamber they shall you bring, 
With much mirth and more liking. 
Your blankets shall be of fustian, 

Your sheets shall be of cloth of Rennes, 
Your head sheet shall be of pery pight, 
With diamonds set and rubies bright. 
When you are laid in bed so soft, 

A cage of gold shall hang aloft, 

With long paper fair burning, 

And cloves that be sweet smelling. 
Frankincense and olibanum, 

That when ye sleep the taste may come; 
And if ye no rest can take, 

All night minstrels for you shall wake. *! 

Amid such fancies and splendours the poets delight and lose them- 
selves; and the result, like the embroideries of their canvas, bears the 
mark of this love of decoration. They weave it out of adventures, of 
extraordinary and surprising events, Now it is the life of King Horn, 
who, thrown into a vessel when quite young, is driven upon the coast 
of England, and, becoming a-knight, reconquers the kingdom of his 
father. Now it is the history of Sir Guy, who rescues enchanted 
knights, cuts down the giant Colbrand, challenges and kills the Sultan 
in his tent. It is not for me to recount these poems, which are not 
English, but only translations; still, here as in France, they are multi- 
plied, they fill the imaginations of the young society, and they grow by 
exaggeration, until, falling to the lowest depth of insipidity and impro- 
bability, they are buried for ever by Cervantes. What would you say 
of a society which had no literature but the opera with its unrealities ? 
Yet it was a literature of this kind which nourished the genius of the 


_ middle ages. They did not ask for truth, but entertainment, and that 
_ vehement and hollow, full of glare and startling events. They asked 


for impossible voyages, extravagant challenges, a racket of contests, 


_ aconfusion of magnificence and entanglement of chances. For intro- 


Spective history they had no liking, cared nothing for the adventures 
of the heart, devoted their attention to the outside. They lived like 


1 Warton, i. 176, spelling modernised. 








84 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


children, with eyes glued to a series of exaggerated and coloured images, 
and, for lack of thinking, did not perceive that they had learnt nothing. 

What was there beneath this fanciful dream? Brutal and evil 
human passions, unchained at first by religious fury, then delivered to 
their own devices, and, beneath a show of external courtesy, as vile as 
before. Look at the popular king, Richard Ceur de Lion, and reckon 
up his butcheries and murders: ‘King Richard,’ says a poem, ‘is the 
best king ever mentioned in song.’* I have no objection; but if he has _ 
the heart of a lion, he has also that brute’s appetite. One day, under 
the walls of Acre, being convalescent, he had a great desire for some 
pork. There was no pork. They killed a young Saracen, fresh and 
tender, cooked and salted him, and the king eat him and found him 
very good; whereupon he desired to see the head of the pig. The 
cook brought it in trembling. The king falls a laughing, and says the 
army has nothing to fear from famine, having provisions ready at hand. ° 
He takes the'town, and presently Saladin’s ambassadors come to sue for 
pardon for the prisoners. Richard has thirty of the most noble be- 
headed, and bids his cook boil the heads, and serve one to each ambas- 
sador, with a ticket bearing the name and family of the dead man. 
Meanwhile, in their presence, he eats his own with a relish, bids them 
tell Saladin how the Christians make war, and ask him if it is true 
that they feared him. ‘Then he orders the sixty thousand prisoners to 
be led into the plain: 


* They were led into the place full even. 
There they heard angels of heaven ; 
They said : ‘‘ Seigneures, tuez, tuez! 
Spares hem nought, and beheadeth these !” 
King Richard heard the angels’ voice, 
And thanked God and the holy cross.’ 


Thereon they behead them all. When he took a town, it was his wont 
to murder every one, even children and women. That was the devotion 
of the middle ages, not only in romances, as here, but in history. At 
the taking of Jerusalem the whole population, seventy thousand per- 
sons, were massacred. 

Thus even in chivalrous accounts break out the fierce and unbridled 
instincts of the bloodthirsty brute. The authentic narratives show it 
equally. Henry u., irritated against a page, attempted to tear out 
his eyes.* John Lackland let twenty-three hostages die in prison of 
hunger. Edward nm. caused at one time twenty-eight nobles to be 
hanged and disembowelled, and was himself put to death by the inser- 





1 Warton, i. 123: 
* In Fraunce these rhymes were wroht, 
Every Englyshe ne knew it not.’ 
* See Lingard’s History, ii. 55, note 4.—Tr. 

















CHAP. IL] THE NORMANS. 85 


tion of a red-hot iron into his bowels, Look in Froissart for the de- 
baucheries and murders, in France as well as in England, of the Tun- 
dred Years’ War, and then for the slaughters of the Wars of the Roses. 
In both countries feudal independence ended in civil war, and the 
middle age founders under its vices. Chivalrous courtesy, which cloaked 
the native ferocity, disappears like a garment suddenly consumed by 
the breaking out of a fire; at that time in England they killed nobles 
in preference, and prisoners too, even children, with insults, in cold 
blood. What, then, did man learn in this civilisation and by this 
literature? How was he humanised? What precepts of justice, habits 
of reflection, store of true judgments, did this culture interpose between 
his desires and his actions, in order to moderate his passion? He 
dreamed, he imagined a sort of elegant ceremonial in order to address 
better lords and ladies; he discovered the gallant code of little Jehan 
de Saintré. But where is the true education? Wherein has Froissart 
profited by all his vast experience? He was a fine specimen of a 
babbling child; what they called his poesy, the podsie neuve, is only a 
refined gabble, a senile puerility. Some rhetoricians, like Christine de 
Pisan, try to round their periods after an ancient model; but their 
literature amounts to nothing. No one can think. Sir John Maunde- 
ville, who travelled all over the world a hundred and fifty years after 
Villehardouin, is as contracted in his ideas as Villehardouin himself. 
Extraordinary legends and fables, every sort of credulity and ignor- 
ance, abound in his book. When he wishes to explain why Palestine 
has passed into the hands of various possessors instead of continuing 
under one government, he says that it is because God would not that 
it should continue longer in the hands of. traitors and sinners, whether 
Christians or others. He has seen at Jerusalem, on the steps of the 
temple, the footmarks of the ass which our Lord rode on Palm Sunday. 
He describes the Ethiopians as a people who have only one foot, but so 
large that they can make use of it as a parasol. He instances one 
island ‘where be people as big as gyants, of 28 feet long, and have 
no cloathing but beasts’ skins ;’ then another island, ‘ where there are 
many evil and foul women, but have precious stones in their eyes, and 
have such force that if they behold any man with wrath, they slay him 
with beholding, as the basilisk doth.’ The good man relates; that is 
all: hesitation and good sense scarcely exist in the world he lives in. 
He has neither judgment nor personal reflection ; he piles facts one on 
top of another, with no further connection ; his book is simply a mirror 
which reproduces recollections of his eyes and ears. ‘And all those 
who will say a Pater and an Ave Maria in my behalf, I give them an 
interest and a share in all the holy pilgrimages I ever made in my life.’ 
That is his farewell, and accords with all the rest. Neither public 
morality nor public knowledge has gained anything from these three 
centuries of culture. This French culture, copied in vain throughout 
Europe, has but superficially adorned mankind, and the varnish with 


86 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1, 


which it decked them, already fades away or scales off. It was worse 
in England, where the thing was more superficial and the application 
worse than in France, where strange hands daubed it on, and where it 
only half-covered the Saxon crust, which remained coarse and rough. 
That is the reason why, during three centuries, throughout the first 
feudal age, the literature of the Normans in England, made up of imi- 
tations, translations, and clumsy copies, ends in nothing. 


ee 


Meantime, what has become of the conquered people? Has the 
old stock on which the brilliant continental flowers were grafted, en- 
gendered no shoot of its own speciality? Did it continue barren 
during this time under the Norman axe, which stripped it of all its 
shoots? It grew very feebly, but it grew nevertheless. The subju- 
gated race is not a dismembered nation, dislocated, uprooted, sluggish, 
like the populations of the Continent, which, after the long Roman 
oppression, were delivered over to the disorderly invasion of bar- 
barians ; it remained united, fixed in its own soil, full of sap: its 
members were not displaced ; it was simply lopped in order to receive 
on its crown a cluster of foreign branches. True, it had suffered, but 
at last the wound closed, the saps mingled.’ Even the hard, stiff liga- 
tures with which the Conqueror bound it, henceforth contributed to its 
fixity and vigour. Bib sony land was mapped out; every title verified, 
defined in writing ;? every right or tenure valued; every man registered 
as to his locality, condition, duty, resources, worth; so that the whole 
nation was enveloped in a network of which not a mesh would break. 
Its future development was according to this pattern. Its constitution 
was settled, and in this determinate and stringent enclosure men were 
bound to unfold themselves and to act. Bolidarity. and strife: these 
were the two effects of the great and orderly establishment which 
shaped and held together, on one side the aristocracy of the conquerors, 
on the other the conquered people; even as in Rome the systematic 
importation of conquered peoples into the plebs, and the constrained 
organisation of the patricians in contrast with the plebs, enrolled the 
several elements in two orders, whose opposition and union formed the 
state. Thus, here as in Rome, the national character was moulded and 
completed by the habit of corporate action, the respect for written law, 
political and practical aptitude, the development of combative and 
patient energy. It was the Domesday Book which, binding this young 





? Pictorial History, i. 666 ; Dialogue on the Exchequer, temp. Henr, 11. 

* Domesday Book. Froude’s Hist. of England, 1858, i. 13: ‘ Through all these 
arrangements a single aim is visible, that every man in England should have his 
definite place and definite duty assigned to him, and that no human being should 
be at liberty to lead at his own pleasure an unaccountable existence. The disci. 
pline of an army was transferred to the details of social life,’ 











CHAP. II.] THE NORMANS, 87 


society in a rigid discipline, made of the Saxon the Englishman we see 
in our own day. 

Gradually and slowly, through the gloomy complainings of the 
chroniclers, we find the new man fashioned by action, like a child who 
cries because a steel instrument, though it improves his figure, gives him 
pain. However reduced and downtrodden the Saxons were, they did not 
all sink into the populace. Some,} almost in every county, remained 
lords of their estates, if they would do homage for them to the king. A 


_ great number became vassals of Norman barons, and remained proprie- 


tors on this condition, A greater number became socagers, that is, free 
proprietors, burdened with a tax, but possessed of the right of alienat- 
ing their property; and the Saxon villeins found patrons in these, as 
the plebs formerly did in the Italian nobles who were transplanted to 
Rome. It was an effectual patronage, that of the Saxons who pre- 
served their integral position, for they were not isolated: marriages 
from the first united the two races, as it had the patricians and plebeians 
of Rome;* a Norman, brother-in-law to a Saxon, defended himself in 
defending him. In those troublesome times, and in an armed com- 
munity, relatives and allies were obliged to stand close to one another 
for security. After all, it was necessary for the new-comers to consider 
their subjects, for these subjects had the heart and courage of a man: 
the Saxons, like the plebeians at Rome, remembered their native rank 
and their original independence. We can recognise it in the com- 
plaints and indignation of the chroniclers, in the growling and menaces 
of popular revolt, in the long bitterness with which they continually 
recalled their ancient liberty, in the favour with which they cherished 
the daring and rebellion of the outlaws, There were Saxon families at 
the end of the twelfth century, who had bound themselves by a per- 
petual vow, to wear long beards from father to son, in memory of the 
national custom and of the old country. Such men, even though 
fallen to the condition of socagers, even sunk into villeins, had a stiffer 
neck than the wretched colonists of the Continent, trodden down and 
moulded by four centuries of Roman taxation. By their feelings as 
by their condition, they were the broken remains, but also the living 
elements, of a free people. They did not suffer the limits of oppression. 
They constitute the body of the nation, the laborious, courageous body 
which supplied its energy. The great barons felt that they must rely 





1 Domesday Book, ‘ tenants-in-chief.’ 
2 Pict, Hist, i. 666. According to Ailred (temp. Hen. 1.), ‘a king, many 
bishops and abbots, many great earls and noble knights, descended both from 


English and Norman blood, constituted a support to the one and an honour to the 


other,’ ‘At present,’ says another author of the same period, ‘as the English and 
Normans dwell together, and have constantly intermarried, the two nations are so 
completely mingled together, that, at least as regards freemen, one can scarcely 
distinguish who is Norman, and who English. . . . The villeins attached to the 
soil,’ he says again, ‘are alone of pure Saxon blood.” - 


or. THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


upon them in their resistance to the king. Very soon, in stipulating 
for themselves, they stipulated for all freemen,’ even for the merchants 
and villeins. Thereafter: 


‘No merchant shall be dispossessed of his merchandise, no villein of the instru- 
ments of his labour ; no freeman, merchant, or villein shall be taxed unreasonably 
for a small crime; no freeman shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised_of his 
land, or outlawed, or destroyed in any manner, but by the lawful judgment of his 
peers, or by the law of the land.’ ; 


The red-bearded Saxon, with his clear complexion and great white 
teeth, came and sate by the Norman’s side; these were franklins like 
the one whom Chaucer describes : 

* A Frankelein was in this compagnie ; 

White was his berd, as is the dayesie. 
Of his complexion he was sanguin, 

. Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in win. 
To liven in delit was ever his wone, 
For he was Epicures owen sone, 
That held opinion that plein. delit 
Was veraily felicite parfite. 
An housholder, and that a grete was he, 
Seint Julian he was in his contree. 
His brede, his ale, was alway after on ; 
A better envyned man was no wher non. 
Withouten bake mete never was his hous, 
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous, 
It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke, 
Of all deintees that men coud of thinke ; 
After the sondry sesons of the yere, 
So changed he his mete and his soupere. 
Ful many a fat partrich had he in mewe, 
And many a breme, and many a luce in stewe. 
Wo was his coke but if his sauce were 
Poinant and sharpe, and redy all his gere. 
His table, dormant in his halle alway 
Stode redy covered alle the longe day. 
At sessions ther was he lord and sire. 
Ful often time he was knight of the shire. 
An anelace and a gipciere all of silk, 
Heng at his girdel, white as morwe milk. 
A shereve hadde he ben, and a contour. 
Was no wher swiche a worthy vavasour.’* 


With him occasionally in the assembly, oftenest among the audience, 
were the yeomen, farmers, foresters, tradesmen, his fellow-countrymen, 
muscular and resolute men, nov slow in the defence of their property, 
and in the support, with voice, blows, and weapons, of him who would 


1 Magna Charta, 1215. 
* Chaucer's Works, ed. Sir H. Nicholas, 6 vols., 1845, Bs: to the Canter- 
bury Tales, ii. p. 11, v. 333. 








———- | © 
e i 
7 
ms 


~~ 

















CHAP. II] THE NORMANS. 89 


take their cause in hand. Is it likely that the discontent of such men 
could be overlooked ? 


* The Miller was a stout carl for the nones, 

Ful bigge he was of braun, and eke of bones ; 
That proved wel, for over all ther he came, 
At wrastling he wold bere away the ram. 

He was short shuldered brode, a thikke gnarre, 
Ther n’as no dore, that he n’olde heve of barre, 
Or breke it at a renning with his hede. 

His berd as any sowe or fox was rede, 

And therto brode, as though it were a spade. 
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade 

A wert, and theron stode a tufte of heres, 
Rede as the bristles of a sowes eres: 

His nose-thirles blacke were and wide. 

A swerd and bokeler bare he by his side. 

His mouth as wide was as a forneis, 

He was a jangler and a goliardeis, 

And that was most of sinne, and harlotries. 
Wel coude he stelen corne and tollen thries, 
And yet he had a thomb of gold parde. 

A white cote and a blew hode wered he. 

A baggepipe wel coude he blowe and soune, 
And therwithall he brought us out of toune.’* 


Those are the athletic forms, the square build, the jolly John Bulls 
of the period, such as we yet find them, nourished by meat and porter, 
sustained by bodily exercise and boxing. These are the men we 
must keep before us, if we will understand how political liberty has 
been established in the country. Gradually they find the simple 
knights, their colleagues in the county court, too poor to assist with 
the great barons at the royal assemblies, coalescing with them. They 
become united by community of interests, by similarity of manners, by 
nearness of condition; they take them for their representatives, they 
elect them.* They have now entered upon public life, and the advent 
of a new reinforcement, gives them a perpetual standing in their changed 
condition. The towns laid waste by the Conquest are gradually re- 
peopled. They obtain or exact charters; the townsmen buy themselves 
out of the arbitrary taxes that were imposed on them; they get possession 
of the land on which their houses are built; they unite themselves under 
mayors and aldermen. Each town now, within the meshes of the great 
feudal net, is a power. Leicester, rebelling against the king, sammons 
two burgesses from each town to Parliament,® to authorise and support 
him. Thenceforth the conquered race, both in country and town, has 


2 Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 17, v. 547. 
- * From 12K, and also in 1225 and 1254. Guizot, Origin of the Representative 
System in England, pp. 297-299. 

+ In 1264, 





90 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


risen to political life. If they are taxed, it is with their consent; they 
pay nothing which they do not agree to. Early in the fourteenth cen- 
tury their united deputies compose the House of Commons; and already, 
at the close of the preceding century, the Archbishop of Canterbury, 
speaking in the name of the king, said to the pope, ‘ It is the custom of 
the kingdom of England, that in all affairs relating to the state of this 
kingdom, the advice of all who are interested in them should be taken.’ 


VIL. 


If they have acquired liberties, it is because they have conquered 
them; circumstances have assisted, but character has done more. The 
protection of the great barons and the alliance of the plain knights 
have strengthened them; but it was by their native roughness and 
energy that they maintained their independence. For, look at the con- 
trast they offer at this moment to their neighbours. What occupies 
the mind of the French people? The fabliaux, the naughty tricks of 
Renard, the art of deceiving Master Ysengrin, of stealing his wife, of 
cheating him out of his dinner, of getting him beaten by a third party 
without danger to one’s self; in short, the triumph of poverty and 
cleverness over power united to folly. The popular hero is already 
the artful plebeian, chaffing, light-hearted, who, later on, will ripen into 
Panurge and Figaro, not apt to withstand you to your face, too sharp 
to care for great victories and habits of strife, inclined by the nimble- . 
ness of his wit to dodge round an obstacle; if he but touch a man with’ 
the tip of his finger, that man tumbles into the trap. But here we have 
other customs: it is Robin Hood, a valiant outlaw, living free and bold 
in the green forest, waging frank and open war against sheriff and law. 
If ever a man was popular in his country, it was he. ‘It is he,’ says an 
old historian, whom the common people love so dearly to celebrate in 
games and comedies, and whose history, sung by fiddlers, interests them 
more than any other.’ In the sixteenth century he still had his com- 
memoration day, observed by all the people in the small towns and in 
the country. Bishop Latimer, making his pastoral tour, announced one 
day that he would preach in a certain place. On the morrow, pro- 
ceeding to the church, he found the doors closed, and waited more than 
an hour before they brought him the key. At last aman came and 
said to him, ‘ Syr, thys ys a busye day with us; we cannot heare you: 
it is Robyn Hoodes Daye. The parishe are gone abrode to gather for 
Robyn Hoode. . . . I was fayne there to geve place to Robyn Hoode.’? 
The bishop was obliged to divest himself of his ecclesiastical garments 
and proceed on his journey, leaving his place to archers dressed in 
green, who played on a rustic stage the parts of Robin Hood, Little 
John, and their band. In fact, he is the national hero, Saxon in the 





1 Aug. Thierry, iv. 56. Ritson’s Robin Hood, 1832. 
* Latimer’s Sermons, ed. Arber, 6th Sermon, 1869, p. 178. 








CHAP. II.] "THE NORMANS. Ot 


first place, and waging war against the men of law, against bishops and 
archbishops, whose sway was so heavy ; generous, moreover, giving to a 
poor ruined knight clothes, horse, and money to buy back the land he 
had pledged to a rapacious abbot; compassionate too, and kind to the 
poor, enjoining his men not to injure yeomen and labourers; but before 
all rash, bold, proud, who would go and draw his bow under the 
sheriff’s eyes and to his face; ready with blows, whether to receive or 
to return them. He slew fourteen out of fifteen foresters who came to 
arrest him; he slays the sheriff, the judge, the town gatekeeper; he is 
ready tu slay plenty more; and all this joyously, jovially, like an 
honest fellow who eats well, has a hard skin, lives in the open air, and 
revels in animal life, 
‘In somer when the shawes be sheyne, 
And leves be large and long, 
Hit is fulle mery in feyre foreste 
To here the foulys song.’ 


That is how many ballads begin; and the fine weather, which makes 
the stags and oxen rush headlong with extended horns, inspires them 
with the thought of exchanging blows with sword or stick. Robin 
dreamed that two yeomen were thrashing him, and he wants to go and 
find them, angrily repulsing Little John, who offers to go in advance: 
* Ah John, by me thou settest noe store, 
And that I farley finde : 


How offt send I my men before, 
And tarry myselfe behinde ? 


*It is no cunning a knave to ken, 
An a man but heare him speake ; 
An it were not for bursting of my bowe, 
John, I thy head wold breake.’! . .. 


He goes alone, and meets the robust yeoman, Guy of Gisborne: 
‘He that had neyther beene kythe nor kin, 
Might have seen a full fayre fight, 
To see how together these yeomen went 
With blades both browne and bright, 


*To see how these yeomen together they fought 
Two howres of a summer's day ; 
Yett neither Robin Hood nor sir Guy 
Them fettled to flye away."* 


You see Guy the yeoman is as brave as Robin Hood; he came to seek 
him in the wood, and drew the bow almost as well as he. This old 
popular poetry is not the praise of a single bandit, but of an entire 
class, the yeomanry. ‘God haffe mersey on Robin Hodys solle, and 
saffe all god yemanry.’ That is how many ballads end. The strong 





1 Ritson, Robin Hood Ballads, i. iv. v, 41-48. 2 Ibid. v. 145-152. 


92 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


yeoman, inured to blows, a good archer, clever at sword and stick, is 
the favourite. There was also redoubtable, armed townsfolk, accus- 
tomed to make use of their arms. Here they are at work: 


***O that were a shame,” said jolly Robin, 
** We being three, and thou but one.” 
The pinder? leapt back then thirty good foot, 
Twas thirty good foot and one. 
*He leaned his back fast unto a thorn, 
And his foot against a stone, 
And there he fought a long summer’s day, 
A summer’s day so long, 


‘Till that their swords on their broad bucklers 
Were broke fast into their hands,’? . . . 


Often even Robin does not get the advantage: 


'€ “T pass not for length,” bold Arthur reply’d, 
“* My staff is of oke so free ; 
Eight foot and a half, it will knock down a calf, 
And I hope it will knock down thee.” 


‘Then Robin could no longer forbear, 
He gave him such a knock, 
Quickly and soon the blood came down 
Before it was ten a clock. 


*Then Arthur he soon recovered himself, 
And gave him such a knock on the crown, 
That from every side of bold Robin Hood’s head 
The blood came trickling down. 


‘Then Robin raged like a wild boar, 
As socn as he saw his own blood: 
Then Bland was in hast, he laid on so fast, 
As though he had been cleaving of wood. 


*And about and about and about they went, 
Like two wild bores in a chase, 
Striving to aim each other to maim, 
Leg, arm, or any other place. 
“And knock for knock they lustily dealt, 
Which held for two hours and more, 
Till all the wood rang at every bang, 
They ply’d their work so sore. 


*** Hold thy hand, hold thy hand,” said Robin Hood, 
** And let thy quarrel fall ; 
For here we may thrash our bones all to mesh, 
And get no coyn at all. 





‘A pinder’s task was to pin the sheep in the fold, cattle in the penfold or 
pound (Richardson).—Tr. 
* Ritson, ii. 8, v. 17-26, 








neem 











CHAP. I1.] THE NORMANS. 93 


** And in the forrest of merry Sherwood, 
Hereafter thou shalt be free.” 

“God a mercy for nought, my freedom I bought, 
I may thank my staff, and not thee.”"".. . 


‘Who are you, then ?’ says Robin: 
*“T am a tanner,” bold Arthur reply'd, 
‘*In Nottingham long I have wrought ; 
And if thou'lt come there, I vow and swear, 
I will tan thy hide for nought.” 
*** God a mercy, good fellow,” said jolly Robin, 
** Since thou art so kind and free ; 
And if thou wilt tan my hide for nought, 
I will do as much for thee.” ’? 


With these generous offers, they embrace; a free exchange of honest 
blows always prepares the way for friendship. It was so Robin 
Hood tried Little John, whom he loved all his life after. Little John 
was seven feet high, and being on a bridge, would not give way. 
Honest Robin would not use his bow against him, but went and cut a 
stick seven feet long; and they agreed amicably to fight on the bridge 
until one should fall into the water. They hit and smite to such a 
tune that ‘their bones did sound.’ In the end Robin falls, and he feels 
nothing but respect for Little John. Another time, having a sword 
with him, ‘he was thrashed by a tinker who had only a stick. Full of 
admiration, he gives him a hundred pounds. One time it was by a 
potter, who refused him toll; another by a shepherd. They fight for 
pastime. Even now-a-days boxers give each other a friendly grip before 
meeting; they knock one another about in this country honourably, 
without malice, fury, or shame. Broken teeth, black eyes, smashed 
ribs, do not call for murderous vengeance; it would seem that the 
bones are more solid and the nerves less sensitive in England than else- 
where. Blows once exchanged, they take each other by the hand, and 
dance together on the green grass: 
“Then Robin took them both by the hands, 
And danc'd round about the oke tree. 
“* For three merry men, and three merry men, 
And three merry men we be.”’ 


Observe, moreover, that these people, in each parish, practised the 
bow every Sunday, and were the best archers in the world,—that from 
the close of the fourteenth century the general emancipation of the 
villeins multiplied their number enormously, and you may understand 
how, amidst all the operations and changes of the great central powers, 
the liberty of the subject endured. After all, the only permanent and © 
unalterable guarantee, in every country and under every constitution, | 





1 Ritson, ii. 6, v, 58-89. 4 Ibid, v. 94-101, 


———_ 


94 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


is this unspoken declaration in the heart of the mass of the people, 
which is well understood on all sides: ‘If any one touches my pro- 
perty, enters my house, obstructs or molests me, let him beware. I 
have patience, but I have also strong arms, good comrades, a good 
blade, and, on occasion, a firm resolve, happen what may, to plunge 
my blade up to its hilt in his throat.’ 


VIL. 


Thus thought Sir John Fortescue, Chanceilor of England under 
Henry vi., exiled in France during the Wars of the Roses, one of the 
oldest prose-writers, and the first who weighed and explained the con- 
stitution of his country.’ He says: 


‘It is cowardise and lack of hartes and corage that kepeth the Frenchmen from 
rysyng, and not povertye;? which corage no Frenche man hath like to the English 
man. It hath ben often seen in Englond that iij or iv thefes, for povertie, hath 
sett upon vij or viij true men, and robbyd them al. But it hath not ben seen in 
Fraunce, that vij or viij thefes have ben hardy to robbe iij or iv true men. Wher- 
for it is right seld that Frenchmen be hangyd for robberye, for that they have no 
hertys to do so terryble an acte. There be therfor mo men hangyd in Englond, in 
a yere, for robberye and manslaughter, than ther be hangid in Fraunce for such 
cause of crime in vij yers.’* 


This throws a sudden and terrible light on the violent condition of this 
armed community, where blows are an everyday matter, and where 
every one, rich and poor, lives with his hand on his sword. There 
were great bands of malefactors under Edward 1, who infested the - 
country, and fought with those who came to seize them. The inha- 
bitants of the towns were obliged to gather together with those of the 
neighbouring towns, with hue and cry, to pursue and capture them. 
Under Edward i. there were barons who rode about with armed 
escorts and archers, seizing the manors, carrying off ladies and girls of- 
high degree, mutilating, killing, extorting ransoms from people in their 
own houses, as if they were in an enemy’s land, and sometimes coming 
before the judges at the sessions in such guise and in so great force 
that the judges were afraid and dare not administer justice.* Read 





1 The Difference between an Absolute and Limited Monarchy—A learned Com- 
mendation of the Politic Laws of England (Latin). I frequently quote from the 
second work, which is complete. 

* The courage which gives utterance here is coarse; the English instincts are 
combative and independent. The French race, and the Gauls generally, are per- 
haps the most reckless of life of any. 

* The Difference, etc., 3 ed. 1724, ch. xiii. p. 98. There are now-a-days in 
France 42 highway robberies as against 738 in England. In 1843, there were in 
England four times as many accusations of crimes and offences as in France, having 
regard to the number of inhabitants (Moreau de Jonnés). 

* Statute of Winchester, 1285 ; Ordinance of 1378. 





>) aa 
- 
¥ 
* 
' 


<a 








CHAP, I1.] THE NORMANS. 95 


the letters of the Paston family, under Henry vi. and Edward 1v., and 
you will see how private war was at every door, how it was necessary 
to defend oneself with men and arms, to be alert for the defence of 
one’s property, to be self-reliant, to depend on one’s own strength and 
courage. It is this excess of vigour and readiness to fight which, after 
their victories in France, set them against one another in England, in the 
butcheries of the Wars of the Roses, The strangers who saw them were 
astonished at their bodily strength and courage of heart, at the great 
pieces of beef‘ which feed their muscles, at their military habits, their 
fierce obstinacy, as of savage beasts.’ They are like their bulldogs, an 
untameable race, who in their mad courage ‘cast themselves with shut 
eyes into the den of a Russian bear, and get their head broken like a 
rotten apple.’ This strange condition of a military community, so full 
of danger, and requiring so much effort, does not make them afraid. 
King Edward having given orders to send disturbers of the peace to 
prison without legal proceedings, and not to liberate them, on bail or 
otherwise, the Commons declared the order ‘ horribly vexatious ;’ resist 
it, refuse to be too much protected. Less peace, but more independence. 
They maintain the guarantees of the subject at the expense of public 
security, and prefer turbulent liberty to arbitrary order. Better suffer 
marauders whom one can fight, than provosts under whom they would 
have to bend, 

This proud and persistent notion gives rise to, and fashions, For- 
tescue’s whole work : 


* Ther be two kynds of kyngdomys, of the which that one ys a lordship callid 
in Latyne Dominium regale, and that other is callid Dominium politicum et regale.’ 


The first is established in France, and the second in England. 


* And they dyversen in that the first may rule his people by such lawys as he 
makyth hymself, and therefor, he may set upon them talys, and other impositions, 
such as he wyl hymself, without their assent. The secund may not rule hys people 
by other laws than such as they assenten unto; and therfor he may set upon 
them non impositions without their own assent.’? 


In a state like this, the will of the people is the prime element of life. 
Sir John Fortescue says further: 


‘A king of England cannot at his pleasure make any alterations in the laws 
of the land, for the nature of his government is not only regal, but political.’ 

‘In the body politic, the first thing which lives and moves is the intention of 
the people, having in it the blood, that is, the prudential care and provision for 
the public good, which it transmits and communicates to the head, as to the 

part, and to all the rest of the members of the said body politic, whereby 


principal 
it subsists and is invigorated. The law under which the people is incorporated 


may be compared to the nerves or sinews of the body natural. . . . And as the 


? Benvenuto Cellini, quoted by Froude, i. 20, Hist. of England. Shakspeare, 
Henry V.; conversation of French lords before the battle of Agincourt. 
® The Difference, etc., p. i. 





96 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


bones and all the other members of the body preserve their functions and discharge 
their several offices by the nerves, so do the members of the community by the 
law. And as the head of the body natural cannot change its nerves or sinews, 
cannot deny to the several parts their proper energy, their due proportion and ali- 
ment of blood, neither can a king who is the head of the body politic change the 
laws thereof, nor take from the people what is theirs by right, against their con- 
sents... . For he is appointed to protect his subjects in their lives, properties, 
and laws ; for this very end and purpose he has the delegation of power from the 
people.’ 


Here we have all the ideas of Locke in the fifteenth century; so 


powerful is practice to suggest theory! so quickly does man discover, 
in the enjoyment of liberty, the nature of liberty! Fortescue goes 
further: he contrasts, step by step, the Roman law, that heritage of all 
Latin peoples, with the English law, that heritage of all Teutonic 
peoples: one the work of absolute princes, and tending altogether to 
the sacrifice of the individual; the other the work of the common will, 
tending altogether to protect the person. He contrasts the maxims of 
the imperial jurisconsults, who accord ‘force of law to all which is 
determined by the prince,’ with the statutes of England, which ‘are 
not enacted by the svle will of the prince, . . . but with the concurrent 
consent of the whole kingdom, by their representatives in Parliament, 

. more than three hundred select persons.’ He contrasts the arbi- 
trary nomination of imperial officers with the election of the sheriff, 
and says: 


‘There is in every county a certain officer, called the king’s sheriff, who, 
amongst other duties of his office, executes within his county all mandates and 
judgments of the king’s courts of justice: he is an annual officer ; and it is not 
lawful for him, after the expiration of his year, to continue to act in his said office, 
neither shall he be taken in again to execute the said office within two years thence 
next ensuing. The manner of his election is thus: Every year, on the morrow of 
All-Souls, there meet in the King’s Court of Exchequer all the king’s counsellors, 
as well lords spiritual and temporal, as all other the king’s justices, all the barons 
of the Exchequer, the Master of the Rolls, and certain other officers, when all of 
them, by common consent, nominate three of every county knights or esquires, 
persons of distinction, and such as they esteem fittest qualified to bear the office of 
sheriff of that county for the year ensuing. The king only makes choice of one ont 
of the three so nominated and returned, who, in virtue of the king’s letters patent, 
is constituted High Sheriff of that county.’ 


He contrasts the Roman procedure, which is satisfied with two wit- 
nesses to condemn a man with the jury, the three permitted challenges, 
the admirable guarantees of justice with which the uprightness, num- 
ber, repute, and condition of the juries surround the sentence, About 
the juries he says: 

‘Twelve good and true men being sworn, as in the manner above related, legally 
qualified, that is, having, over and besides their moveables, possessions in land 
sufficient, as was said, wherewith to maintain their rank and station ; neither 
inspected by, nor at variance with either of the parties ; all of the neighbourhood ; , 


7 











iF 


CHAP. IL] THE NORMANS. 97 


there chall be read $6 them, iar English, by the Court, the record and nature of the 
plea.’ 

Thus protected, the English commons cannot be other than flourishing. 
Consider, on the other hand, he says to the young prince whom he is 
instructing, the condition of the commons in France. By their taxes, 
tax on salt, on wine, billeting of soldiers, they are reduced to great 
misery. You have seen them on your travels. . . . 


*The same Commons be so impoverishid and distroyyd, that they may unneth 
lyve. Thay drink water, thay eate apples, with bred right brown made of rye. 
They eate no fleshe, but if it be selden, a litill larde, or of the entrails or heds of 
bests sclayne for the nobles and merchants of the land. They weryn no wollyn, 
but if it be a pore cote under their uttermost garment, made of grete canvass, and 
cal it a frok. Their hosyn be of like canvas, and passen not their knee, wherfor 
they be gartrid and their thyghs bare. Their wifs and children gone bare fote. . . . 
For sum of them, that was wonte to pay to his lord for his tenement which he 
hyrith by the year a scute payth now to the kyag, over that seute, fyve skuts. 
Wher thrugh they be artyd by necessite so to watch, labour and grub in the 
ground for their sustenance, that their nature is much wasted, and the kynd of 
them brought to nowght. Thay gone crokyd and ar feeble, not able to fight nor 
to defend the realm ; nor they have wepon, nor monye to buy them wepon withal. 
. « » This is the frute first of hyre Jus regale. . . . But blessed be God, this land 
ys rulid under a better lawe, and therfor the people therof be not in such penurye, 
nor therby hurt in their persons, but they be wealthie and have all things neces- 
sarie to the sustenance of nature. Wherefore they be myghty and able to resyste 
the adversaries of the realms that do or will do them wrong. Loo, this is the frut 
of Jus politicum et regale, under which we lyve.’* ‘ Everye inhabiter of the realme 
of England useth and enjoyeth at his pleasure all the fruites that his land or cattel 
beareth, with al the profits and commodities which by his owne travayle, or by the 
labour of others, hae gaineth ; not hindered by the iniurie or wrong deteinement of 
anye man, but that hee shall bee allowed a reasonable recompence.* . . . Hereby it 
commeth to passe that the men of that lande are riche, havyng aboundaunce of golde 
and silver, and other thinges necessarie for the maintenaunce of man’s life. They 
drinke no water, unlesse it be so, that some for devotion, and uppon a zeale of 
penaunce, doe abstaine from other drinks. They eate plentifully of all kindes of 
fleshe and fishe. They weare fine woollen cloth in all their apparel ; they have 
also aboundaunce of bed-coveringes in their houses, and of all other woollen stuffe. 
They have greate store of all hustlementes and implementes of householde, they are 
plentifully furnished with al instruments of husbandry, and all other things that 
are requisite to the accomplishment of a quiet and wealthy lyfe, according to their 
estates and degrees. Neither are they sued in the lawe, but onely before 
indges, where by the lawes of the lande they are iustlyintreated. Neither are they 





® The original of this very famous treatise, de Laudibus Legum Anglia, was 


" written in Latin between 1464 and 1470, first published in 1537, and translated 


into English in 1737 by Francis Gregor. I have taken these extracts from the 
magnificent edition of Sir John Fortescue’s works published in 1869 for private 
distribution, and edited by Thomas Fortescue, Lord Clermont. Some of the pieces 
quoted, left in the old spelling, are taken from an older edition. —Tr. 
* Of an Absolute and Limited Monarchy, 84 ed., 1724, ch. iii. p. 15. 
% Commines bears the same testimony. 

G 


98 THE SOURCE. [Book I 


arrested or impleaded for their moveables or possessions, or arraigned of any offence, 
bee it never so great and outragious, but after the lawes of the land, and before the 
iudges aforesaid.’ } 

All this arises from the constitution of the country and the distribu- 
tion of the land. Whilst in other countries we find only a population 
of paupers, with here and there a few lords, England is covered and 
filled with owners of lands and fields; so that ‘therein so small a 
thorpe cannot bee founde, wherein dwelleth not a knight, an esquire, | 
or suche a housholder as is there commonly called a franklayne, en- 
ryched with greate possessions. And also other freeholders, and many 
yeomen able for their livelodes to make a jurye in fourme afore-men- 
tioned. For there bee in that lande divers yeomen, which are able to 
dispende by the yeare above a hundred poundes.’? Harrison says :* 

‘This sort of people have more estimation than labourers and the common sort 
of artificers, and these commonlie live wealthilie, keepe good houses, and travell 
to get riches. They are for the most part farmers to gentlemen,’ and keep servants 
of their own. ‘These were they that in times past made all France afraid. And 
albeit they be not called master, as gentlemen are, or sir, as to knights apper- 
teineth, but onelie John and Thomas, etc., yet have they beene found to have’ 
done verie good service; and the kings of England, in foughten battels, were wont 
to remaine among them (who were their footmen) as the French kings did among 
their horssemen: the prince thereby showing where his chiefe strength did consist.’ 


Such men, says Fortescue, might form a legal jury, and vote, resist, be 
associated, do everything wherein a free government consists: for they 
were numerous in every district; they were not down-trodden like the 
timid peasants of France; they had their honour and that of their 
family to maintajn ; ‘ they be well provided with arms; they remember 
that they have won battles in France.’* Such is the class, still obscure, 





1 De Laudibus, etc., ch. xxxvi. 

2 ‘The might of the realme most stondyth upon archers which be not rich 
men.’ Compare Hallam, ii. 482. All this takes us back as far as the Conquest, 
and farther. ‘It is reasonable to suppose that the greater part of those who 
appear to have possessed small freeholds or parcels of manors were no other than 
the original nation. . . . A respectable class of free socagers, having in general 
full right of alionating ' their lands, and holding them probably at a small certain 
rent from the lord of the manor, frequently occurs in the Domesday Book.’ At 
all events, there were in Domesday Book Saxons ‘ perfectly exempt from villenage.” 
This class is mentioned with respect in the treatises of Glanvil and Bracton. As for 
the villeins, they were quickly liberated in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, 
either by their own energies or by becoming copyholders. The Wars of the Roses 
still further raised the commons; orders were frequently issued, previous to a 
battle, to slay the nobles and spare the commoners. 

3 Description of England, 275. 

* The following is a portrait of a yeoman, by Latimer, in the first sermon 
preached before Edward vi., 8th March 1549: ‘My father was a yeoman, and 
had no lands of his own; only he had a farm of £3 or £4 by year at the uttermost, 
and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for a 
hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty kine. He was able, and did find 











CHAP. IL] THE NORMANS, 99 


but more rich and powerful every century, who, founded on the 
degraded Saxon aristocracy, and sustained by the surviving Saxon 
character, ended, under the lead of the inferior Norman nobility, and 
under the patronage of the superior Norman nobility, in establishing 
and settling a free constitution, and a nation worthy of liberty. 


IX. 

When, as here, men are endowed with a serious character, strength- 
ened by a resolute spirit, and entrenched in independent habits, they 
meddle with their conscience as with their daily business, and end by 
laying hands on church as well as state. It is now a long time since 
the exactions of the Roman See provoked the resistance of the people,* 
and a presuming priesthood became unpopular. Men complained that 
the best livings were given by the Pope to non-resident strangers ; that 
some Italian, unknown in England, possessed fifty or sixty benefices in 
England ; that English money poured into Rome; and that the clergy, 
being judged only by clergy, gave themselves up to their vices, and 
abused their state of impunity. In the first years of Henry m1. there 
were reckoned nearly a hundred murders committed by priests still 
alive, At the beginning of the fourteenth century the ecclesiastical 
revenue was twelve times greater than the civil; about half the soil 
was in the hands of the clergy. At the end of the century the 
commons declared that the taxes paid to the church were five times 
greater than the taxes paid to the crown; and some years afterwards,* 





the king a harness, with himself and his horse ; while he came to the place that 
he should receive the king’s wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness 
when he went unto Blackheath field. He kept me to school, or else I had not 
been able to have preached before the King’s Majesty now. He married my 
sisters with £5 or 20 nobles a-piece, so that he brought them up in godliness and 
fear of God ; he kept hospitality for his poor neighbours, and some alms he gave 
to the poor; and all this did he of the said farm. Where he that now hath it 
payeth £16 by the year, or more, and is not able to do anything for his prince, for 
himself, nor for his children, or give a cup of drink to the poor.’ 

This is from the sixth sermon, preached before the young king, 12th April 
1549: ‘In my time my poor father was as diligent to teach me to shoot as to 
learn (me) any other thing ; and so, I think, other men did their children. He 
taught me how to draw, how to lay my body in my bow, and not to draw with 
strength of arms, as other nations do, but with strength of the body. I had my 
bows bought me according to my age and strength ; as I increased in them, so my 
bows were made bigger and bigger ; for men shall never shoot well except they be 
brought up in it. It is a goodly art, a wholesome kind of exercise, and much 
commended in physic.’ 

1 Pict, Hist, i. 802. In 1246, 1376. Thierry, iii. 79. 

71404-1409. The commons declared that with these revenues the king would 
be able to maintain 15 earls, 1500 knights, 6200 squires, and 100 hospitals: each 
earl receiving annually 300 marks ; each knight 100 marks, and the produce of four 
ploughed lands ; each squire 40 marks, and the produce of two ploughed lands. 
Pict, Hist. ii, 142, 


100 THE SOURCE. ~ [BOOK I. 


considering that the wealth of the clergy only served to keep them in 
idleness and luxury, they proposed to confiscate it for the public 
benefit. Already the idea of the Reformation had forced itself upon 
them. They remembered how in the ballads Robin Hood ordered his 
folk to ‘spare the yeomen, labourers, even knights, if they are good 
fellows,’ but never to pardon abbots or bishops. The prelates grievously 
oppressed the people with their laws, tribunals, and tithes; and sud- 
denly, amid the pleasant banter and the monotonous babble of the ~ 
Norman versifiers, we hear resound the indignant voice of a Saxon, a 
man of the people and a victim. 

It is the vision of Piers Ploughman, a carter, written, it is sup- 
posed, by a secular priest of Oxford. Doubtless the traces of French 
taste are perceptible. It could not be otherwise: the people from 
below can never quite prevent themselves from imitating the people 
above; and the most unshackled popular poets, Burns and Béranger, 
too often preserve an academic style. So here a fashionable machi- 
nery, the allegory of the Roman de la Rose, is pressed into service. 
We have Do-well, Covetousness, Avarice, Simony, Conscience, and a 
whole world of talking abstractions, But in spite of these vain foreign 
phantoms, the body of the poem is national, and true to life. The old 
language reappears in part; the old metre altogether; no more rhymes, 
but barbarous alliterations; no more jesting, but a harsh gravity, a 
sustained invective, a grand and sombre imagination, heavy Latin texts, 
hammered down as by a Protestant hand. Piers Ploughman went to 
sleep on the Malvern hills, and there had a wonderful dream: 

‘Thanne gan I meten—a merveillous swevene, 

That I was in a wildernesse—wiste I nevere where ; 

And as I biheeld into the eest,—an heigh to the sonne, 

I seigh a tour on a toft,—trieliche y-maked, 

A deep dale bynethe—a dongeon thereinne 

With depe diches and derke—and dredfulle of sighte. 

A fair feeld ful of folk—fond I ther bitwene, 

Of alle manere of men,—the meene and the riche, 

Werchynge and wandrynge—as the world asketh. 

Some putten hem to the plough,—pleiden ful selde, 

In settynge and sowynge—swonken ful harde, 

And wonnen that wastours—with glotonye dystruyeth.”® 
A gloomy picture of the world, like the frightful dreams which occur 
so often in Albert Durer and Luther. The first reformers were per- 
suaded that the earth was given over to evil; that the devil had in it 
his empire and his officers; that Antichrist, seated on the throne of 
Rome, spread out ecclesiastical pomps to seduce souls, and cast them 
into the fire of hell. So here Antichrist, with raised banner, enters a 
convent; bells are rung; monks in solemn procession go to meet him, 





1 About 1362. 
% Piers Ploughman’s Vision and Creed, ed. T. Wright, 1856, i. p. 2, v. 21-44. 





CHAP. I.) THE NORMANS. 101 


and receive with congratulations their lord and father. With seven 
great giants, the seven deadly sins, he besieges Conscience; and the 
assault is led by Idleness, who brings with her an army of more than 
a thousand prelates: for vices reign, more hateful from being in holy 
places, and employed in the church of God in the devil's service: 

* Ac now is Religion a rydere—a romere aboute, 

A ledere of love-dayes—and a lond-buggere, 

A prikere on a palfrey—fro manere to manere. . . « 

And but if his knave knele—that shal his coppe brynge, 

He loureth on hym, and asketh hym—who taughte hym curteisie.’* 


But this sacrilegious show has its day, and God puts His hand on men 
in order to warn them. By order of Conscience, Nature sends up a 
host of plagues and diseases ; 

} * Kynde Conscience tho herde,—and cam out of the planetes, 

\ And sente forth his forreyours—feveres and fluxes, 

Coughes and cardiacles,—crampes and tooth-aches, 

Reumes and radegundes,—and roynous scabbes, 

Biles and bocches,—and brennynge agues, 

Frenesies and foule yveles,—forageres of kynde. .. . 

There was ‘‘ Harrow! and Help !—Here cometh Kynde! 

With Deeth that is dredful—to undo us alle!” 

The lord that lyved after lust—tho aloud cryde. . . . 

Deeth cam dryvynge after,—and al to duste passhed 

Kynges and knyghtes,—kaysers and popes, . 

Manye & lovely lady—and lemmans of knyghtes, 

Swowned and swelted for sorwe of hise dyntes.’3 


Here is a crowd of miseries, like those which Milton has described 
in his vision of human life; tragic pictures and emotions, such as the 
reformers delight to dwell upon. There is a like speech delivered 
by John Knox, before the fair ladies of Mary Stuart, which tears the 
veil from the human corpse just as brutally, in order to exhibit 
its shame. The conception of the world, proper to the people of the 
north, all sad and moral, shows itself already. They are never com- 
fortable in their country; they have to strive continually against cold 
or rain. They cannot live there carelessly, lying under a lovely sky, 
in a sultry and clear atmosphere, their eyes filled with the noble beauty 
and happy serenity of the land. They must work to live; be attentive, 
exact, close and repair their houses, wade boldly through the mud 
behind their plough, light their lamps in the shops during the day. 
Their climate imposes endless inconvenience, and exacts endless en- 
durance. Hence arise melancholy and the idea of duty. Man naturally 
thinks of life as of a battle, oftener of black death which closes this 


1 The Archdeacon of Richmond, on his tour in 1216, came to the priory of 
Bridlington with ninety-seven horses, twenty-one dogs, and three falcons, 

® Piers Ploughman’s Vision, i. p. 191, v. 6217-6228. 

9 Ibid, ii, Last book, p. 430, v. 14084-14135. 














\F 


102 THE SOURCE. [BOOK TI. 


deadly show, and leads so many plumed and disorderly processions to 
the silence and the eternity of the grave. All this visible world is 
vain; there is nothing true butehuman virtue,—the courageous energy 
with which man attains to self-command, the generous energy with 
which he employs himself in the service of others. On this view he 
fixes his eyes; they pierce through worldly gauds, neglect sensual joys, 
to attain this. By such internal action the ideal is displaced; a new 

} source of action springs up—the idea of righteousness. What sets — 
them against ecclesiastical pomp and insolence, is neither the envy of 
the poor and low, nor the anger of the oppressed, nor a revolutionary 
desire to experimentalise abstract truth, but_conscience. They tremble 
lest they should not work out their salvation if they continue in a cor- 
rupted church; they fear the menaces of God, and dare not embark on 
the great journey with unsafe guides. ‘What is righteousness?’ asked 
Luther anxiously, ‘and how shall I obtain it?’ With like anxiety 
Piers Ploughman goes to seek Do-well, and asks each one to show him 
where he shall find him. ‘ With us,’ say the friars. ‘Contra quath 
ich, Septies in die cadit justus, and ho so syngeth certys doth nat wel;’ 
so he betakes himself to ‘ study and writing,’ like Luther; the clerks at 
table speak much of God and of the Trinity, ‘and taken Bernarde to 
witnesse, and putteth forth presompcions . . . ac the carful mai crie and 
quaken atte gate, bothe a fyngred and a furst, and for defaute spille ys 
non so hende to have hym yn. Clerkus and knyghtes carpen of God 
ofte, and haveth hym muche in hure mouthe, ac mene men in herte ;’ 
and heart, inner faith, living virtue, are what constitute true re- 
ligion, This is what these dull Saxons had begun to discover; the 
Teutonic conscience, and English good sense too, had been aroused, 
with individual energy, the resolution to judge and to decide alone, by 
and for one’s self. ‘Christ is our hede that sitteth on hie, Heddis ne 
ought we have no mo,’ says a poem,’ attributed to Chaucer, and which, 
with others, claims independence for Christian consciences. 


* We ben his membres bothe also, 
Father he taught us call him all, 
Maisters to call forbad he tho ; 
Al maisters ben wickid and fals.’ 


No mediator between man and God. In vain the doctors state that they 
have authority for their words; there is a word of greater authority, to 
wit, God’s. We hear it in the fourteenth century, this grand word. It 
quitted the learned schools, the dead languages, the dusty shelves on 
which the clergy suffered it to sleep, covered with a confusion of com- 
mentaries and Fathers? Wiclif appeared and translated it like Luther, } 





1 Piers Plowman’s Crede ; the Plowman’s Tale, printed in 1550. There were 
three editions in one year, it was so manifestly Protestant. 

* Knighton, about 1400, wrote thus of Wiclif: ‘Transtulit de Latino in angli- 
cam linguam, non angelicam. Unde per ipsum fit vulgare, et magis apertum 














CHAP. I] THE NORMANS, 103 


and in a spirit similar to Luther's. ‘Cristen men and wymmen, olde 
and yonge, shulden studie fast in the Newe Testament, for it is of ful 
autorite, and opyn to undirstonding of simple men, as to the poyntis 
that be moost nedeful to salvacioun.’* Religion must be secular, in 
order to escape from the hands of the clergy, who forestall it; each 
must hear and read for himself the word of God: he will be sure that 
it has not been corrupted in the passage; he will feel it better, and 
more, he will understand it better; for 


‘ech place of holy writ, both opyn and derk, techith mekenes and charite ; and 
therfore he that kepith mekenes and charite hath the trewe undirstondyng and 
perfectioun of al holi writ. . . . Therfore no simple man of wit be aferd un- 
mesurabli to studie in the text of holy writ . . . and no clerk be proude of the 
verrey undirstondyng of holy writ, for whi undirstonding of hooly writ with outen 
charite that kepith Goddis heestis, makith a man depper dampned . . . and pride 
and covetise of clerkis is cause of her blindees and eresie, and priveth them fro 
verrey undirstondyng of holy writ.’ # 

These are the memorable words that began to circulate in the markets 
and in the schools. They read the translated Bible, and commented on 
it; they judged the existing Church after it. What judgments these 
serious and renovated minds passed upon it, with what readiness they 
pushed on to the true religion of their race, we may see from their 
petition to Parliament.* One hundred and thirty years before Luther, 
they said that the pope was not established by Christ, that pilgrim- 
ages and image-worship were akin to idolatry, that external forms are 
of no importance, that priests ought not to possess temporal wealth, 
that the doctrine of transubstantiation made a people idolatrous, that 
priests have not the power of absolving from sin. In proof of all this 
they brought forward texts of Scripture. Fancy these brave spirits, 
simple and strong souls, who began to read at night, in their shops, 
by candle-light; for they were shopmen—a tailor, and a furrier, and 
a baker—who, with some men of letters, began to read, and then to 
believe, and finally got themselves burned.‘ What a sight for the 
fifteenth century, and what a promise! It seems as though, with 
liberty of action, liberty of mind begins to appear; that these common 
folk will think and speak; that under a conventional literature, intro- 
duced from France, a new literature is dawning; and that England, 
genuine England, half-mute since the Conquest, will at last find a voice. 

She had not found it. King and peers ally themselves to the 
Church, pass terrible statutes, destroy lives, burn heretics alive, often 


laicis et mulieribus legere scientibus quam solet esse clericis admodum litteratis, et 
bene intelligentibus. Et sic evangelica margerita spargitur et a porcis conculcatur 
. « « (ita) ut laicis commune eternum quod ante fuerat clericis et ecclesiw doctori- 
bus talentum supernum.’ 

! Wiclif’s Bible, ed. Forshall and Madden, 1850, preface to Oxford edition, p. 2. 

* Ibid. 3 In 1395. 

* 1401, William Sawtré, the first Lollard burned alive. 


~ Veet / W ' he . 





~~ 


104 THE SOURCE. [BOOK Tf. 


with refinement of torture,—one in a barrel, another hung by an iron 
chain round his waist. The temporal wealth of the clergy had been 
attacked, and therewith the whole English constitution ; and the great 
establishment above crushed out with its whole weight the assailants 
from below. Darkly, in silence, while in the Wars of the Roses the 
nobles were destroying each other, the commoners went on working 
and living, separating themselves from the official Church, maintaining 
their liberties, amassing their wealth,’ but not going beyond. Like a 
vast rock which underlies the soil, yet crops up here and there at distant 
intervals, they barely exhibit themselves. No great poetical or religious 
work displays them to the light. They sang; but their ballads, first 
ignored, then transformed, reach us only in alate edition. They prayed; \ 
but beyond one or two indifferent poems, their incomplete and repressed 
doctrine bore no fruit. One may well see from the verse, tone, and | 
drift of their‘ballads, that they are capable of the finest poetic origin- | 
ality,? but their poetry is in the hands of yeomen and harpers. We 
perceive, by the precocity and energy of their religious protests, that 
they are capable of the most severe and impassioned creeds; but their 
faith remains hidden in the shop-parlours of a few cbidare eae sectaries. 
Neither their faith nor their poetry has been able to attain its end or 
issue. The Renaissance and the Reformation, those two national out- 
breaks, are still far off; and the literature of the period retains to the 
end, like the highest ranks of English society, almost the perfect stamp 
of its French origin and its foreign models. 





1 Commines, v. ch. 19 and 20: ‘In my opinion, of all kingdoms of the world of 
which I have any knowledge, where the public weal is best observed, and least 
violence is exercised on the people, and where no buildings are overthrown or 
demolished in war, England is the best ; and the ruin and misfortune falls on them 
who wage the war. . . . The kingdom of England has this advantage beyond other. 
nations, that the people and the country are not destroyed or burnt, nor the build- 
ings demolished ; and ill-fortune falls on men of war, and especially on the nobles.’ 

2 See the ballads of Chevy Chase, The Nu Nut-Bro Brown Maid, ete. Many of them 
are admirable little dramas, 

















CMAP. UL] THE NEW TONGUE, 105 


CHAPTER IIL 


The New Tongue. 


I. Chancer—His education—His political and social life—Wherein his talent 
was serviceable—He paints the second feudal society. 

Il. How the middle age degenerated—Decline of the serious element in manners, 
books, and works of art—Need of excitement—Analogies of architecture 
and literature. 

IIL. Wherein Chaucer belongs to the middle age—Romantic and ornamental poems 
—Le Roman de la Rose— Troilus and Cressida—Canterbury Tales—Order of 
description and events—The House of Fame—Fantastic dreams and visions 
—Love poems—7'roilus and Cressida—Exaggerated development of love in 
the middle age—Why the mind took this path—Mystic love—The Flower 
and the Leaf—Sensual loye—Trotlus and Cressida, 

IV. Wherein Chaucer is French—Satirical and jovial poems—Canterbury Tales— 
The Wife of Bath and marriage—The mendicant friar and religion—Buf- 
foonery, waggery, and coarseness in the middle age. 

V. Wherein Chaucer was English and original—Idea of character and individual 
—vVan Eyck and Chaucer contemporary—Prologue to Canterbury Tales— 
Portraits of the franklin, monk, miller, citizen, knight, squire, prioress, 
the good clerk—Connection of events and characters—General idea—Im- 
portarce of the same—Chaucer a precursor of the Reformation—He halts 

+ by the way—Delays and childishness—Causes of this feebleness—His prose, 
and scholastic notion—How he is isolated in his age. 

VI. Connection of philosophy and poetry—How general notions failed under 
the scholastic philosophy—Why poetry failed—Comparison of civilisa- 
tion and decadence in the middle age, and in Spain—Extinction of 
the English literature—Translators—Rhyming chronicles—Didactic poets 
—Compilers of moralities—Gower—Occleve—Lydgate—Analogy of taste 
in costumes, buildings, and literature—Sad notion of fate, and human 
misery—Hawes—Barclay—Skelton—Elements of the Reformation and of 
the Renaissance. 


L 


MID so many barren endeavours, throughout the long impotence 

of Norman literature, which was content to copy, and of Saxon 
literature, which bore no fruit, a definite language was nevertheless 
attained, and there was room for a great writer. Geoffrey Chaucer 
appeared, a man of mark, inventive though a disciple, original though 
a translator, who by his genius, education, and life, was enabled to 
know and to depict a whole world, but above all to satisfy the chivalric 


106 THE SOURCE. ~ [Book L 


world and the splendid courts which shone upon the heights. He 
belonged to it, though learned and versed in all branches of scholastic 
knowledge; and he took such part in it, that his life from end to end 
was that of a man of the world, and a man of action. We find him 
alternately in King Edward’s army, in the king’s train, husband of a 
queen’s maid of honour, a pensioner, a placeholder, a deputy_in Parlia- 
ment, a knight, founder of a family which was hereafter to become 
allied to royalty. Moreover, he was in the king’s council, brother-in- 
law of the Duke of Lancaster, employed more than once in open 
embassies or secret missions at Florence, Genoa, Milan, Flanders, com- 
missioner in France for the marriage of the Prince of Wales, high up 
and low down in the political ladder, disgraced, restored to place. 
This experience of business, travel, war, the court, was not like a book 
education. He was at the court of Edward m1., the most splendid in 
Europe, amidst tourneys, grand entrances, displays; he took part in 
the pomps of France and Milan; conversed with Petrarch, perhaps with 
Boccacio and Froissart; was actor in, and spectator of, the finest and 
most tragical of dramas. In these few words, what ceremonies and pro- 
cessions are implied! what pageantry of armour, caparisoned horses, 
bedecked ladies! what display of gallant and lordly manners! what a 
varied and brilliant world, well suited to occupy the mind and eyes of 
a poet! Like Froissart, better than he, Chaucer could depict the 
character of the nobles, their mode of life, their amours, even other 
things, and please them by his portraiture. 


II. 


Two notions raised the middle age above the chaos of barbarism: 
one religious, which had fashioned the gigantic cathedrals, and swept 
the masses from their native soil to hurl them upon the Holy Land; 


the other secular, which had built feudal fortresses, and set the man of 


courage armed, upon his feet, within his own domain: the one had 
produced the oe saat hero, the other the mystical monk; the one, 
to wit, the belief in God, the other the belief in self. . Both, running 
to excess, had degenerated by ‘expenditure of force: the one had 
exalted independence into rebellion, the other had changed piety into 
enthusiasm: the first made man unfit for civil life, the second drew 
him back from natural life: the one, sanctioning disorder, dissolved 
society ; the other, enthroning irrationality, perverted intelligence. 
Chivalry had need to be repressed before issuing in brigandage ; devo- 
tion restrained before inducing slavery. Turbulent feudalism grew 
feeble, like oppressive theocracy; and the two great master passions, 
deprived of their sap and lopped of their stem, gave place by their 
weakness to the monotony of habit and the taste for worldliness, which 
shot forth in their stead and flourished under their name. 





' Born between 1328 and 1345, died in 1400. 














CHAP, I11.] THE NEW TONGUE. 107 


Insensibly, the serious element declined, in books as in manners, in 
works of art as in books. Architecture, instead of being the hand- 
maid of faith, became the slave of phantasy. It was e 
confined to mere decoration, sacrificing general effect to detail, shot 
up its steeples to unreasonable heights, festooned its churches with 
canopies, pinnacles, trefoiled arches, open-worked galleries, ‘ Its 
whole aim was continually to climb higher, to clothe the sacred edifice 
with a gaudy bedizenment, as if it were a bride on the wedding morn- 
ing.’* Before this marvellous lacework, what emotion could one feel 
but a pleased astonishment? What becomes of Christian sentiment 
before such scenic ornamentations? In like manner literature sets 
itself to play. In the eighteenth century, the second age of absolute 
monarchy, we saw on one side garlanded top-knots and cupolas, on 
the other pretty vers de société, courtly and sprightly tales, taking the 
place of severe beauty-lines and noble writings. Even so in the four- 
teenth century, the second age of feudalism, they had on one side the 
stone fretwork and slender efflorescence of aerial forms, and on the 
other finical verses and diverting stories, taking the place of the old 
grand architecture and the old simple literature. It is no longer the 
overflowing of a true sentiment which produces them, but the craving 
for excitement. Consider Chaucer, his subjects, and how he selects 
them. He goes far and wide to discover them, to Italy, France, to the 
popular legends, the ancient classics. His readers need diversity, and 
his business is to ‘ provide fine tales:’ it was in those days the poet’s 
business.? The lords at table have finished dinner, the minstrels come 
and sing, the brightness of the torches falls on the velvet and ermine, 
on the fantastic figures, the oddities, the elaborate embroidery of their 
long garments ; then the poet arrives, presents his manuscript, ‘ richly 
illuminated, bound in crimson violet, embellished with silver clasps 
and bosses, roses of gold:’ they ask him for his subject, and he 
answers ‘ Love.’ 


Iil. . 


In fact, it is the most agreeable subject, fittest to make the evening 
hours flow sweetly, amid the spiced goblets and the burning perfumes. 
Chaucer translated first that great storehouse of gallantry, the Roman 
de la Rose. There is no pleasanter entertainment. It is about a rose 
which the lover wished to pluck: the pictures of the May months, the 
groves, the flowery earth, the green hedgerows, abound and display 
their bloom. Then come portraits of the smiling ladies, Richesse, 
Fraunchise, Gaiety, and by way of contrast, two sad characters, 
Daunger and Travail, all crowding, and minutely described, with de- 
tail of features, clothing, attitude; they walk about, as in a piece of 





1 Renan, De l’'Art au Moyen Age. 
? See Froissart, his life with the Count of Foix and with King Richard 11. 


—_—_—— 


108 THE SOURCE. ‘[BooK 1. 


tapestry, amid landscapes, dances, castles, with allegorical groups, in 
lively sparkling colours, displayed, contrasted, ever renewed and varied 
so as to entertain the sight. For an evil has arisen, unknown to 
serious ages—ennut: novelty and brilliancy followed by novelty and 
brilliancy are necessary to withstand it; and Chaucer, like Boccacio 
and Froissart, enters into the struggle with all his heart. He borrows 
from Boccacio his history of Palamon and Arcite, from Lollius his 
history of Troilus and Cressida, and re-arranges them. How the two 
young Theban knights, Arcite and Palamon, both fall in love with the 
beautiful Emily, and how Arcite, victorious in tourney, falls and dies, 
bequeathing Emily to his rival; how the fine Trojan knight Troilus 
wins the favours of Cressida, and how Cressida abandons him for 
Diomedes—these are still tales in verse, tales of love. A little long 
they may be; all the writings of this age, French, or imitated from 
French, are born of too prodigal minds; but how they glide along! 
A winding stream, which flows smoothly on level sand, and glitters now 
and again in the sun, is the only image we can find. The characters 
speak too much, but then they speak so well! Even when they dis- 
pute, we like to listen, their anger and offences are so wholly based 
on a happy overflow of unbroken converse. Remember Froissart, how 


slaughters, assassinations, plagues, the butcheries of the Jacquerie, the 


whole chaos of human misery, is forgotten in his fine uniform humour, 
so that the furious and raving figures seem but ornaments and choice 
embroiderings to relieve the train of shaded and coloured silk which 
forms the groundwork of his narrative! 

But, in particular, a multitude of descriptions spread their gilding 
over all. Chaucer, leads you among arms, palaces, temples, and halts 
before each scene. Here: 


‘The statue of Venus glorious for to see 
Was naked fleting in the large see, 
And fro the navel doun all covered was 
With wawes grene, and bright as any glas, 
A citole in hire right hand hadde she, 
And on hire hed, ful semely for to see, 
A rose gerlond fressh, and wel smelling, 
Above hire hed hire doves fleckering.’! 


Further on, the temple of Mars: 


‘ First on the wall was peinted a forest, 
In which ther wonneth neyther man ne best, 
With knotty knarry barrein trees old 
Of stubbes and sharp and hidous to behold; 
In which ther ran a romble and a swough, 
As though a storme shuld bresten every bough : 
And dounward from an hill under a bent, 
Ther stood the temple of Mars armipotent, 





1 Knight's Tale, ii. p. 59, v. 1957-1964. 


| 
| 


ee sa 


oma oa 





THE NEW TONGUE. 109 





Wrought all of burned stele, of which th’ entree 

Was longe and streite, and gastly for to see. 

And therout came a rage and swiche a vise, 

That it made all the gates for to rise. 

The northern light in at the dore shone, 

For window on the wall ne was ther none, 

Thurgh which men mighten any light discerne, 

The dore was all of athamant eterne, 

Yclenched overthwart and endelong 

With yren tough, and for to make it strong, 

Every piler the temple to sustene 

Was tonne-gret, of yren bright and shene."! 

Everywhere on the wall were representations of slaughter; and in the 
sanctuary 

\ *The statue of Mars upon a carte stood 

¥ Armed, and loked grim as he were wood, . . « 

\ A wolf ther stood beforne him at his fete 

With eyen red, and of a man he ete.’? 


Are not these contrasts well designed to rouse the imagination? You 
will meet in Chaucer a succession of similar pictures. Observe the 
train of combatants who came to joust in the tilting field for Arcite 
and Palamon: 


* With him ther wenten knightes many on. 
Som wol ben armed in an habergeon 

And in a brestplate, and in a gipon ; 

And som wol have a pair of plates large ; 

And som wol have a Pruce sheld, or a targe, 
Som wol ben armed on his legges wele, 

And have an axe, and som a mace of stele. . . « 
Ther maist thou se coming with Palamon 
Licurge himself, the grete king of Trace : 
Blake was his berd, and manly was his face. 
The cercles of his eyen in his hed 

They gloweden betwixen yelwe and red, 

And like a griffon loked he about, 

With kemped heres on his browes stout ; 

His limmes gret, his braunes hard and stronge, 
His shouldres brode, his armes round and longe. 
And as the guise wag in his contree, 

Ful highe upon a char of gold stood he, 

With foure white bolles in the trais. 

Instede of cote-armure on his harnais, 

With nayles yelwe, and bright as any gold, 

He hadde a beres skin, cole-blake for old. 

His longe here was kempt behind his bak, 

As any ravenes fether it shone for blake. 

A wreth of gold arm-gret, of huge weight, 
Upon his hed sate ful of stones bright, 


1 Knight’s Tale, ii. p. 59, v. 1977-1996, 9 Ibid. p. 61, v. 2043-2050. 











110 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1. 


Of fine rubins and of diamants. 
About his char ther wenten white alauns, 
Twenty and mo, as gret as any stere, 
To hunten at the leon or the dere, 
And folwed him, with mosel fast ybound, 
Colered with gold, and torettes filed round. 
An hundred lordes had he in his route, 
Armed ful wel, with hertes sterne and stoute, 
With Arcita, in stories as men find, 
The gret Emetrius the king of Inde, 
Upon a stede bay, trapped in stele, 
Covered with cloth of gold diapred wele, 
Came riding like the god of armes Mars, 
His cote-armure was of a cloth of Tars, 
Couched with perles, white, and round and grete, 
His sadel was of brent gold new ybete ; 
‘A mantelet upon his shouldres hanging 
Bret-ful of rubies red, as fire sparkling. 
His crispe here like ringes was yronne, 
And that was yelwe, and glitered as the sonne, 
His nose was high, his eyen bright citrin, 
His lippés round, his colour was sanguin . . . 
And as a leon he his loking caste. 
Of five and twenty yere his age I caste. 
His berd was well begonnen for to spring ; 
His vois was as a trompe thondering. 
Upon his hed he wered of laurer grene 
A gerlond fresshe and lusty for to sene. 
Upon his hond he bare for his deduit 
An egle tame, as any lily whit. 
An hundred lordes had he with him there, 
All armed save hir hedes in all hir gere, 
Ful richely in alle manere thinges. . . . 
About this king ther ran on every part 
Ful many a tame leon and leopart.’! 
A herald would not describe them better nor more fully. The lords 
and ladies of the time would recognise here their tourneys and 
masquerades, 
There is something more pleasant than a fine narrative, and that is 
a collection-of fine narratives, especially when the narratives are all of 
different colourings. Froissart gives us such under the name of 
Chronicles ; Boccacio still better ; after him the lords of the Cent Nou- 
velles nouvelles ; and, later still, Marguerite de Navarre. What more 
natural among people who ‘meet, talk, and try to amuse themselves? 
The manners of the time suggest them; for the habits and tastes of 
society had begun, and fiction thus conceived only brings into books the 
conversations which are heard in the hall and by the wayside. Chaucer 
describes a troop of pilgrims, people of every rank, who are going to 





1 Knight's Tale, ii, p. 68, v. 2120-2188, 














CHAP. IIT] THE NEW TONGUE. 111 


Canterbury: a knight, a sergeant of law, an Oxford clerk, a doctor, a 
miller, a prioress, a monk, who agree to relate a story all round: 


* For trewely comfort ne mirthe is non, 
To riden by the way domb as the ston.’ 


They relate accordingly; and on this slender and flexible thread all the 
jovialities of the feudal imagination, true and false, come and contribute 
their motley figures to the chain; alternately noble, chivalrous stories : 
the miracle of the infant whose throat was cut by Jews, the trials of 
patient Griselda, Canace and the marvellous fictions of Oriental fancy, 
obscene stories of marriage and monks, allegorical or moral tales, the 
fable of the cock and hen, a list of great unfortunate. persons: Lucifer, 
Adam, Samson, Nebuchadnewar, Zenobia, Cresus, Ugolin, Peter of 
Spain. I leave out some, for I must be brief. Chaucer is like a 
jeweller with his hands full: pearls and glass beads, sparkling diamonds 
and common agates, black jet and ruby roses, all that history and 
imagination had been able to gather and fashion during three centuries 
in the East, in France, in Wales, in Provence, in Italy, all that had 
rolled his way, clashed together, broken or polished by the stream of 
centuries, and by the great jumble of human memory; he holds in his 
hand, arranges it, composes therefrom a !ong sparkling ornament, with 
twenty pendants, a thousand facets, which by its splendour, varieties, 
contrasts, may attract and satisfy the eyes of those most greedy for 
amusement and novelty. 

He does more. The universal outburst of unchecked curiosity de- 
mands a more refined enjoyment; reverie and fantasy alone can satisfy 
it; not profound and thoughtful fantasy as we find it in Shakspeare, 
nor impassioned and meditated reverie as we find it in Dante, but the 
reverie and fantasy of the eyes, ears, external senses, which in poetry as in 
architecture call for singularity, wonders, accepted challenges, victories 
gained over what is rational and probable, and which are satisfied only 
by what is dense and dazzling. When you look at a cathedral of that 
time, you feel a sort of fear. Substance is wanting; the walls are hol- 
lowed out to make room for windows, the elaborate work of the porches, 
the wonderful growth of the slender columns, the thin curvature of 
arches—everything seems to totter; support has been withdrawn to | 
give way to ornament. Without external prop or buttress, and artificial 
aid of iron clamp-work, the building would have crumbled to pieces on 
the first day : as it is, it undoes itself; we have to maintain on the spot a 
colony of masons continually to ward off the continual decay. But our 
eyes lose themselves in following the wavings and twistings of the end- 
less fretwork; the dazzling centre-rose of the portal and the painted glass 
throw a diapered light on the carved stalls of the choir, the gold-work of 
the altar, the long array of damascened and glittering copes, the crowd 
of statues, gradually rising; and amid this violet light, this quivering 
purple, amid these arrows of gold which pierce the gloom, the building 


112 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 1, 


is like the tail of a mystical peacock. So most of the poems of the 
time are barren of foundation; at most a trite morality serves them 
for mainstay: in short, the poet thought of nothing else than spreading 

out before us a glow of colours and a jumble of forms. They are 

dreams or visions; there are five or six in Chaucer, and you will meet 

more on your advance to the Renaissance. Yet the show is splendid. 

Chaucer is transported in a dream to a temple of glass, where on the 

walls are figured in gold all the legends of Ovid and Virgil, an infinite 

train of characters and dresses, like that which, on the painted glass in 

the churches, still occupies the gaze of the faithful. Suddenly a golden 

eagle, which soars near the sun, and glitters like a carbuncle, descends 

with the swiftness of lightning, and carries him off in his talons above 

the stars, dropping him at last before the House of Fame, splendidly built 
of beryl, with shining windows and lofty turrets, and situated on a high 

rock of almost inaccessible ice. All the southern side was graven with 

the names of famous men, but the sun was continuously melting them. 

On the northern side, the names, better protected, still remained. On 

the turrets appeared the minstrels and jongleurs, with Orpheus, Orion, 

and the great harp-players, and behind them myriads of musicians, 

with horns, flutes, pipes, and reeds, in which they blew, and which 

filled the air; then all the charmers, magicians, and prophets. He 

enters, and in a high hall, wainscotted with gold, embossed with pearls, 

on a throne of carbuncle, he sees a woman seated, a ‘gret and noble 

quene,’ amidst an infinite number of heralds, whose embroidered cloaks 

bore the arms of the most famous knights in the world, and heard the 

sounds of instruments, and the celestial melody of Calliope and her 

sisters. From her throne to the gate stretched a row of pillars, on 

which stood the great historians and poets; Josephus on a pillar of 
lead and iron; Statius on a pillar of iron stained with blood; Ovid, 

‘Venus’ clerk,’ on a pillar of copper; then, on one higher than the: 
rest, Homer and Livy, Dares the Phrygian, Guido Colonna, Geoffrey 

of Monmouth, and the other historians of the war of Troy. Must I 

go on copying this phantasmagoria, in which confused erudition mars 

picturesque invention, and frequent banter shows sign that the vision 

is only a planned amusement? The poet and his reader have imagined 

for half an hour decorated halls and bustling crowds; a slender thread 

of common sense has ingeniously crept along the transparent golden mist 

which they amuse themselves with following. That suffices; they are 

pleased with their fleeting fancies, and ask nothing beyond. 

Amid this exuberancy of mind, amid these refined cravings, and 
this insatiate exaltation of imagination and sense, there was the passion 
of love, which, combining all, was developed in excess, and displayed in 
short the sickly charm, the fundamental and fatal exaggeration, which 

_are the characteristics of the age, and which, later, the Spanish civilisa- 





1 The House of Fame. 








CHAP. III] THE NEW TONGUE. 113 


tion exhibits both in its flower and its decay. Long ago, the courts of 
love in Provence had established the theory. ‘Each one who loves,’ 


they said, ‘grows pale at the sight of her whom he loves; each action | 


of the lover ends in the thought of her whom he loves. Love can 
refuse, nothing to love.’* This search after excessive sensation had 
ended in the ecstasies and transports of Guido Cavalcanti, and of 
Dante; and in Languedoc a company of enthusiasts had established 
themselves, love-penitents, who, in order to prove the violence of their 
passion, dressed in summer in furs and heavy garments, and in winter 
in light gauze, and walked thus about the country, so that many of 
them fell ill and died. Chaucer, in their wake, explained in his verses 
the craft of love,? the ten commandments, the twenty statutes of love; 
and praised his lady, his ‘daieseye,’ his ‘Margaruite,’ his ‘ vermeil 
rose ;’ depicted love in ballads, visions, allegories, didactic poems, in a 
hundred guises. This is chivalrous, lofty love, as it was conceived in 
the middle age; above all, tender love. Troilus loves Cressida like a 
troubadour ; without Pandarus, her uncle, he would have languished, 
and ended by dying in silence. He will not reveal the name of her he 
loves. Pandarus has to tear it from him, perform all the bold actions 
himself, plan every kind of stratagem. ‘Troilus, however brave and 
strong in battle, can but weep before Cressida, ask her pardon, and 
faint. Cressida exhibits every delicacy. When Pandarus brings her 
Troilus’ first letter, she begins by refusing it, and is ashamed to open 
it: she opens it only because she is told the poor knight is about to 
die. At the first words ‘all rosy hewed tho woxe she;’ and though 
the letter is respectful, she will not answer it, She yields at last to 
the importunities of her uncle, and answers Troilus that she will feel 
for him the affection of a sister. As to Troilus, he trembles all over, 
grows pale when he sees the messenger return, doubts his happiness, 
and will not believe the assurance which is given him: 

* But right so as these holtes and these hayis 

That han in winter dead ben and dry, 

Revesten hem in grene, whan that May is, . . . 

Right in that selfe wise, sooth for to sey, 

Woxe suddainly his herte full of joy."* 
Slowly, after many pains, and thanks to the efforts of Pandarus, he 
obtains her confession ; and in this confession what a delightful grace ! 

* And as the newe abashed nightingale, 

That stinteth first, whan she beginneth sing, 

Whan that she heareth any heerdes tale, 


Or in the hedges any wight stearing, 
And after siker doeth her voice outring ; 





1 André le Chapelain, 1170. 


2 Also the Court of Love, and perhaps The Assemble of Ladies and La Belle 
Dame sans Merci. 


5 Troilus and Cressida, vol. v. bk. 8, p. 12. 
H 


114 THE SOURCE. [Book 1. 


Right so Creseide, whan that her drede stent, | 
Opened her herte, and told him her entent.’! 


He, as soon as he perceived a hope from afar, 


’ £In chaunged voice, right for his very drede, 
Which voice eke quoke, and thereto his manere, 
Goodly abasht, and now his hewes rede, 
Now pale, unto Cresseide his ladie dere, 
With look doun cast, and humble iyolden chere, 
Lo, the alderfirst word that him astart 
Was twice: ‘‘ Mercy, mercy, O my sweet herte!”’? 


This ardent love breaks out in impassioned accents, in bursts of happi- 
ness. Far from being regarded as a fault, it is the source of all virtue. 
Troilus becomes braver, more generous, more upright, through it; his. 
speech runs now on love and virtue ; he scorns all villany ; he honours 
those who possess merit, succours those who are in distress; and Cres- 
sida, delighted, repeats all day, with exceeding tenderness, this song, 
which is like the warbling of a nightingale: 
* Whom should I thanken but you, god of love, 

‘Of all this blisse, in which to bathe I ginne? 

And thanked be ye, lorde, for that I love, 

This is the right life that I am inne, 

To flemen all maner vice and sinne: 

This doeth me so to vertue for to entende 

That daie by daie I in my will amende. 

And who that saieth that for to love is vice, . . . 

He either is envious, or right nice, 

Or is unmightie for his shreudnesse 

To loven.... 

But I with all mine herte and all my might, 

As I have saied, woll love unto my last, 

My owne dere herte, and all mine owne knight, 

In whiche mine herte growen is so fast, 

And his in me, that it shall ever last,’ 


But misfortune comes. Her father Calchas demands her back, and the 
Trojans decide that they will give her up in exchange for prisoners. 
At this news she swoons, and Troilus is about to slay himself. Their 
love at this time seems imperishable; it sports with death, because it * 
constitutes the whole of life. Beyond that better and delicious life 
which it created, it seems there can be no other: 


*But as God would, of swough she abraide, 
And gan to sighe, and Troilus she cride, 
And he answerde: ‘‘ Lady mine, Creseide, 
Live ye yet?” and let his swerde doun glide; 
** Ye herte mine, that thanked be Cupide,” 





1 Troilus and Cressida, vol. v. bk. 8, p. 40. 2 Ibid. p. 4. 
3 Ibid, vol. iv. bk. 2, p. 292. 





CHAP, III.] THE NEW TONGUE. 115 


(Quod she), and therewithal she sore sight, 
And he began to glade her as he might. 
Took her in armes two and kist her oft, 
And her to glad, he did al his entent, 
For which her gost, that flikered aie a loft, 
Into her wofull herte ayen it went : 
But at the last, as that her eye glent 
Aside, anon she gan his sworde aspie, 
As it lay bare, and gan for feare crie. 
And asked him why had he it out draw, 
And Troilus anon the cause her told, 
And how himself therwith he wold have slain, 
For which Creseide upon him gan behold, 
And gan him in her armes faste fold, 
y And said: ‘tO mercy God, lo which a dede! 
Alas, how nigh we weren bothe dede!"’? 


At last they are separated, with what words and what tears! and 
Troilus, alone in his chamber, murmurs: 

** Where is mine owne lady lefe and dere ? 
: Where is her white brest, where is it, where? 
Where been her armes, and her eyen cleie 
That yesterday this time with me were?” . . » 
Nor there nas houre in al the day or night, 
Whan he was ther as no man might him here, 
That he ne sayd: **O lovesome lady bright, 
Hew have ye faren sins that ye were there ? 
Welcome ywis mine owne lady dere?” .. . 
Fro thence-forth he rideth up and doune, 
And every thing came him to remembraunce, 
As he rode forth by the places of the toune, 
In which he whilom had all his pleasaunce: 
** Lo, yonder saw I mine owne lady daunce, 
And in that temple with her eien clere, 
Me caught first my right lady dere. 
And yonder have I herde full lustely 
My dere herte laugh, and yonder play 
Saw her ones eke ful blisfully, 
And yonder ones to me gan she say, 
* Now, good sweete, love me well I pray.’ 
And yonde so goodly gan she me behold, 
That to the death mine herte is to her hold. 
And at the corner in the yonder house 
Herde I mine alderlevest lady dere, 
So womanly, with voice melodiouse, 
Singen so wel, so goodly, and so clere, 
That in my soule yet me thinketh I here 
The blissful sowne, and in that yonder place, 
My lady first me toke unto her grace,’ ”? 


1 Troilus and Cressida, vol. v. bk. 4, p. 97. 9 Jbid, bk. 5, p. 119 et passim, 


-—<. 











116 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


None has since found more true and tender words. These are the 
charming ‘ poetic branches’ which flourished amid the gross ignorance 
and pompous parades. Human intelligence in the middle age had 
blossomed on that side where it perceived the light. 

But mere narrative does not suffice to express his felicity and fancy ; 
the poet must go where ‘ shoures sweet of rain descended soft,’ 


* And every plaine was clothed faire 
With new greene, and maketh small floures 
To springen here and there in field and in mede, 
So very good and wholsome be the shoures, 
That it renueth that was old and dede, 
In winter time ; and out of every sede 
Springeth the hearbe, so that every wight 
Of this season wexeth glad and light... . 


In which (grove) were okes great, streight as a line, 
Under the which the grasse so fresh of hew 

Was newly sprong, and an eight foot or nine 
Every tree well fro his fellow grew.’ 


He must forget himself in the vague felicity of the country, and, like 
Dante, lose himself in ideal light and allegory. The dreams of love, to 
continue true, must not take a too visible form, nor enter into a too 
consecutive history; they must float in a misty distance; the soul in 
which they hover cannot think of the laws of existence; it inhabits 
another world; it forgets itself in the ravishing emotion which troubles 
it, and sees its well-loved visions rise, mingle, come and go, as in 
summer we see the bees on a hill-slope flutter in a haze of light, and 
circle round and round the flowers. 


One morning,’ a lady sings, I entered at the dawn of day, I entered 
an oak-grove 


* With branches brode, laden with leves new, 
That sprongen out ayen the sunne-shene, 
Some very red, and some a glad light grene. . . .? 


And I, that all this pleasaunt sight sie, 
Thought sodainly I felt so sweet an aire 
Of the eglentere, that certainely 

There is no hert, I deme, in such dispaire, 
Ne with thoughts froward and contraire, 
So overlaid, but it should soone have bote, 
If it had ones felt this savour sote. 


And as I stood, and cast aside mine eie, 
I was ware of the fairest medler tree 
That ever yet in all my life I sie, 

As full of blossomes as it might be ; 
Therein a goldfinch leaping pretile 








1 The Flower and the Leaf, vi. p. 244, v. 6-32. 2 Ibid. p. 245, v. 83, 














CHAP. I11.] THE NEW TONGUE, 117 


Fro bough to bough ; and, as him list, he eet 
Here and there of buds and floures sweet. . . . 


And as I sat, the birds harkening thus, 
Methought that I heard voices sodainly, 
The most sweetest and most delicious 
That ever any wight, I trow truly, 
Heard in their life, for the armony 

And sweet accord was in so good musike, 
That the voice to angels most was like.’! 


Then she sees arrive ‘a world of ladies . . . in surcotes white of 
velvet . . . set with emerauds ... as of great pearles round and 
orient, and diamonds fine and rubies red.’ And all had on their head 
‘a rich fret of gold... full of stately riche stones set,’ with ‘a 
chapelet of branches fresh and grene . . . some of laurer, some of 
woodbind, some of agnus castus;’ and at the same time came a train 
of valiant knights in splendid array, with ‘harneis’ of red gold, shining 
in the sun, and noble steeds, with trappings ‘of cloth of gold; and 
furred with ermine.’ These knights and dames were the servants of 
the Leaf, and they sate under a great oak, at the feet of their queen.’ 

From the other side came a bevy of ladies as resplendent as the 
first, but crowned with fresh flowers. These were the servants of the 
Flower. They alighted, and began to dance in the meadow. But 
heavy clouds appeared in the sky, and a storm broke out, They 
wished to shelter themselves under the oak, but there was no more 
room; they ensconced themselves as they could in the hedges and 
brambles ; the rain came down and spoiled their garlands, stained their 
robes, and washed away their ornaments; when the sun returned, they 
went to ask succour from the queen of the Leaf; she, being merci- 
ful, consoled them, repaired the injury of the rain, and restored their 
original beauty, Then all disappears as in a dream. 

The lady was astonished, when suddenly a fair dame appeared 
and instructed her. She learned that the servants of the Leaf had 
lived like brave knights, and those of the Flower had loved idleness 
and pleasure. She promises to serve the Leaf, and came away. 

Is this an allegory? There is at least a lack of wit. There is no 
ingenious enigma ; it is dominated by fancy, and the poet thinks only 
of displaying in soft verse the fleeting and brilliant train which had 
amused his mind and charmed his eyes. 

ecm Wdegite ‘on the fet of Hie rises and goes out into the 
meadows. Love enters his heart with p lia 2 sweet air; the land- 
scape is transfigured, and the birds begin to speak : 

* There sate I downe among the faire flours, 
And saw the birds trip out of hir bours, 





1 The Flower and the Leaf, vi. p. 246, v. 78-133, 


118 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


‘There as they rested hem all the night, 
They were so joyfull of the dayes light, 
They began of May for to done honours. 
They coud that service all by rote, 
There was many a lovely note, 

Some song loud as they had plained, 


And some in other manner voice yfained 
And some all out with the ful throte. 


The proyned hem and made hem right gay, 
And daunceden, and lepten on the spray, 
And evermore two and two in fere, 

Right so as they had chosen hem to yere, 
In Feverere upon saint Valentines day. 
And the river that I sate upon, 

It made such a noise as it ron, 

Accordaunt with the birdes armony, 
Methought it was the best melody 

That might ben yheard of any mon.’! 


This confused harmony of vague noises troubles the sense; a secret 
languor enters the soul. The cuckoo throws his monotonous voice 
like a mournful and tender sigh between the white ash-tree boles; the 
nightingale makes his triumphant notes roll and rush above the leafy 
canopy; fancy breaks in unsought, and Chaucer hears them dispute of 
Love. They sing alternately an antistrophic song, and the nightingale 
weeps for vexation to hear the cuckoo speak in depreciation of Love. 
He is consoled, however, by the poet’s voice, seeing that he also suffers 
with him : 
* «For love and it hath doe me much wo,” 

** Ye, use” (quod she) ‘‘this medicine 

Every day this May or thou dine 

Go looke upon the fresh daisie, . 

And though thou be for wo in point to die, 

That shall full greatly lessen thee of thy pine. 


** And looke alway that thou be good and trew, 
And I wol sing one of the songes new, 
For love of thee, as loud as I may crie 
And than she began this song full hie, 
‘*J shrewe all hem that been of love untrue.” ’? 


To such exquisite delicacies love, as with Petrarch, had carried 
poetry ; by refinement even, as with Petrarch, it is lost now and then 
in its wit, conceits, clenches. But a marked characteristic at once 
separates it from Petrarch. Chaucer, if over-excited, is also graceful, 
polished, full of light banter, half-mockeries, fine sensual gaiety, some- 





! The Cuckow and Nightingale, vi. p. 121, v. 67-85. 
2 Ibid. p. 126, v. 230-241, 














CHAP, III] THE NEW TONGUE. 119 


what gossipy, as the French always paint love. He follows his true 
masters, and is himself an elegant speaker, facile, ever ready to smile, 
loving choice pleasures, a disciple of the Roman de la Rose, and much 
less Italian than French. The bent of French character makes of love 
not a passion, but a gay feast, tastefully arranged, in which the service 
is elegant, the food exquisite, the silver brilliant, the two guests in full 
dress, in good humour, quick to anticipate and please each other, know- 
ing how to keep up the gaiety, and when to part. In Chaucer, without 
doubt, this other altogether worldly view runs side by side with the 
sentimental element. If Troilus is a weeping lover, his uncle Pandarus 
is a lively rascal, who volunteers for a singular service with amusing 
urgency, frank immorality, and carries it out carefully, gratuitously, 
thoroughly. In these pretty attempts Chaucer accompanies him as far 
as possible, and is not shocked, On the contrary, he makes fun out of 
it. At the critical moment, with transparent hypocrisy, he shelters 
himself under his character as author. If you find the particulars free, 
he says, it is not my fault; ‘so writen clerks in hir bokes old,’ and ‘I 
mote, aftir min auctour, telle. ..’ Not only is he gay, but he jests 
from end to end of the tale. He sees elearly through the tricks of 
feminine modesty; he laughs at it maliciously, knowing well what is 
behind; he seems to be saying, finger on lip: ‘Hush! let the grand 
words roll on, you will be edified presently.’ We are, in fact, edified ; 
so is he, and in the nick of time he goes away, carrying the light: 
‘For ought I can aspies, this light nor I ne serven here of nought.’ 
‘Troilus,’ says uncle Pandarus, ‘if ye be wise, sweveneth not now, 
lest more folke arise.” Troilus takes care not to swoon; and Cres- 
sida at last, being alone with him, speaks wittily and with prudent 
delicacy; there is here an exceeding charm, no coarseness. Their 
happiness covers all, even voluptuousness, as with profusion and per- 
fume of heavenly roses. At most a slight spice of malice flavours it: 
‘and gode thrift he had full oft.’ Troilus holds his mistress in his 
arms: ‘ with worse hap God let us never mete.’ The poet is almost as 
well pleased as they: for him, as for the men of his time, the sovereign 
good is love, not damped, but satisfied; they ended even by thinking 
such love a merit. The ladies declared in their judgments, that when 
one loved, one could refuse nothing to the beloved. Love has the force 
of law ; it is inscribed in a code; they combine it with religion; and 
there is a sacrament of love, in which the birds in their anthems sing 
matins.? Chaucer curses with all his heart the covetous wretches, the 
business men, who treat it as a folly: 


* As would God, tho wretches that despise 
Service of love had eares also long 
As had Mida, ful of covetise, . 


i 





1 Stendhal, On Love; the difference of Love-taste and Love-passion. 
* The Court of Love, about 1353 et seq. See also the Testament of Love. 


120 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. - 


To teachen hem, that they been in the vice 
And lovers not, although they hold hem nice, 
» » « God yeve hem mischaunce, 

And every lover in his trouth avaunce,’? 


He clearly lacks severity, so rare in southern literature. The Italians 
in the middle age made joy into a virtue; and you perceive that the 
world of chivalry, as conceived by the French, expanded morality so as 
to confound it with pleasure. 


IV. 


There are other characteristics still more gay. The true Gallic 
literature crops up; obscene tales, practical jokes on one’s neighbour, 
not shrouded in the Ciceronian style of Boccacio, but related lightly by a 
man in good humour;? above all, active malice, the trick of laughing at 
your neighbour’s expense. Chaucer displays it better than Rutebeuf, 
and sometimes better than La Fontaine. » He does not knock his men 
down; he pricks them as he passes, not from deep hatred or indigna- 
tion, but through sheer nimbleness of disposition, and quick sense of 
the ridiculous; he throws his jokes at them by handfuls. His man of 
law is more a man of business than of the world: 


* Nowher so besy a man as he ther n’as, 
And yet he semed besier than he was.’ 


His three burgesses : 
‘ Everich, for the wisdom that he can . 
Was shapelich for to ben an alderman. 
For catel hadden they ynough and rent, 
And eke hir wives wolde it wel assent,’ 4 


Of the mendicant Friar he says: 


* His wallet lay beforne him in his lappe, 
Bret+ful of pardon come from Rome al hote.’® 


The mockery here comes from the heart, in the French manner, with- 
out effort, calculation, or vehemence. It is so pleasant and so natural 
to banter one’s neighbour! Sometimes the lively vein becomes so abun- 
dant, that it furnishes an entire comedy, indelicate certainly, but so free 
and easy! Such a one is the portrait of the Wife of Bath, who has 
buried five husbands: 
‘ Bold was hire face, and fayre and rede of hew, 

She was a worthy woman all hire live ; 

Housbondes at the chirche dore had she had five, 

Withouten other compagnie in youthe. .. . 





1 Troilus and Cressida, vol. v. iii. pp. 44, 45. 

® The story of the pear-tree (Merchant’s Tale), and of the cradle (Reeve’s Tale), 
for instance, in the Canterbury Tales. 

5 Ibid, prol. p. 10, v. 323. —* Ibid. p. 12, v. 873, 5 Ibid. p. 21, v. 688, 





a ty 
rs ot y 











CHAP. IL] THE NEW TONGUE, 121 


In all the parish wif ne was ther non, 
That to the offring before hire shulde gon, 
And if ther did, certain so wroth was she, 
That she was out of alle charitee.’! 


What a tongue she has! Impertinent, full of vanity, bold, chattering, | 
unbridled, she silences everybody, and holds forth for an hour before 
coming to her tale. We hear her grating, high-pitched, loud, clear 
voice, wherewith she deafened her husbands. She continually harps 
upon the same ideas, repeats her reasons, piles them up and con- 
founds them, like a stubborn mule who runs along shaking and ringing 
his bells, so that the stunned listeners remain open-mouthed, wondering 
that a single tongue can spin out so many words. The subject was 
worth the trouble. She proves that she did well to marry five hus- 
bands, and she proves it clearly, like a woman used to arguing: 


* God bad us for to wex and multiplie ; 

That gentil text can I wel understond ; 

Eke wel I wot, he sayd, that min husbond 
Shuld leve fader and moder, and take to me; 
But of no noumbre mention made he, 

Of bigamie or of octogamie ; 

Why shuld men than speke of it vilanie? 

Lo here the wise king Dan Solomon, 

I trow he hadde wives mo than on, 

(As wolde God it leful were to me 

To be refreshed half so oft as he,) 

Which a gift of God had he for alle his wives? . . 
Blessed be God that I have wedded five, 
Welcome the sixthe whan that ever he shall. . . . 
He (Christ) spake to hem that wold live parfitly, 
And lordings, (by your leve) that am nat I ; 

I wol bestow the flour of all myn age 

In th’ actes and the fruit of mariage. . . . 

An husbond wol I have, I wol not lette, 

Which shal be both my dettour and my thrall, 
And have his tribulation withall 

Upon his flesh, while that I am his wif.’? 


Here Chaucer has the freedom of Moliétre, and we possess it no 
longer. His good wife justifies marriage in terms just as technical as 

e. It behoves us to turn the pages quickly, and follow in the 
lump only this Odyssey of marriage. The experienced wife, who has 
journeyed through life with five husbands, knows the art of taming 
them, and relates how she persecuted them with jealousy, suspicion, 
grumbling, quarrels, blows given and received; how the husband, non- 





1 Canterbury Tales, ii. prologue, p. 14, v. 460. 
Ibid. ii. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. 168, v. 5610-5739, 


122 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


plussed by the continuity of the tempest, stooped at last, accepted the 
halter, and turned the domestic mill like a conjugal and resigned ass: 


‘ For as an hors, I conde bite and whine ; 
I coude plain, and I was in the gilt. ... 
I plained first, so was our werre ystint. 
They were ful glad to excusen hem ful blive 
Of thing, the which they never agilt hir live. . . . 
I swore that all my walking out by night 
Was for to espien wenches that he dight. . . . 
For though the pope had sitten hem beside, 
I wold not spare hem at hir owen bord. . . . 
But certainly I made folk swiche chere, 
That in his owen grese I made him frie 
For anger, and for veray jalousie. 
By God, in erth I was his purgatorie, 
For which I hope his soule be in glorie.’! 


She saw the fifth first at the burial of the fourth: 


* And Jankin oure clerk was on of tho: 
As helpe me God, whan that I saw him go 
Aftir the bere, me thought he had a paire 
Of legges and of feet, so clene and faire, 
That all my herte I yave unto his hold. 
He was, I trow, a twenty winter old, 
And I was fourty, if I shal say soth. ... 
As helpe me God, I was.a lusty on, 
And faire, and riche, and yonge, and well begon.’? 


} What a speech! Was human delusion ever more happily painted? 
How lifelike is all, and how facile! It is the satire of marriage. You 
will find it twenty times in Chaucer. Nothing more is wanted to ex- 
haust the two subjects of French mockery, than to unite with the satire 
of marriage the satire of religion. 

It is here; and Rabelais is not more bitter. The monk whom 
Chaucer paints is a hypocrite, a jolly fellow, who knows good inns and 
jovial hosts better than the poor and the houses of charity: 


* A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery.. .« 
Ful wel beloved, and familier was he 
With frankeleins over all in his contree, 
And eke with worthy wimmen of the toum. ... 
Full swetely herde he confession, 
And plesant was his absolution. 
He was an esy man to give penance, 
Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance : 
For unto a poure ordre for to give 
Is signe that a man is wel yshrive. . . . 
And knew wel the tavernes in every toun, 





1 Canterbury Tales, ii. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. 179, v. 5968-6072, 
* Ibid. p. 185, v. 6177-6188, 

















CHAP. IIL] THE NEW TONGUE. 123 


And every hosteler and gay tapstere, 

Better than a lozar and a beggere. . . . 

It is not honest, it may not avance, 

As for to delen with no swich pouraille, 

But all with riche and sellers of vitaille. . . . 
For many & man so hard is of his herte, 

He may not wepe, although him sore smerte. 
Therfore in stede of weping and praieres, 
Men mote give silver to the poure freres.’! 


This lively irony had an exponent before in Jean de Meung. But 
Chaucer pushes it further, and sets it in action. His monk begs from 
house to house, holding out his wallet: 


* In every hous he gan to pore and prie, 

And begged mele and chese, or elles corn. . . - 

** Yeve us a bushel whete, or malt, or reye, 

A Goddes kichel, or a trippe of chese, ba 
Or elles what you list, we may not chese ; 

A Goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny ; 

Or yeve us of your braun, if ye have any, 

A dagon of your blanket, leve dame, 

Our suster dere, (lo here I write your name).” . . . 
And whan that he was out at dore, anon, 

He planed away the names everich on,’* 


He has kept for the end of his tour, Thomas, one of his most liberal 
clients. He finds him in bed, and ill; here is an excellent fruit to suck 
and squeeze : 

* ** God wot,” quod he, ‘laboured have I ful sore, 

And specially for thy salvation, 

Have I sayd many a precious orison. . . . 

I have this day ben at your chirche at messe . . . 

And ther I saw our dame, a, wher is she?” ’* 


The dame enters: 
*This frere ariseth up ful curtisly, 


And hire embraceth in his armes narwe, 
And kisseth hire swete and chirketh as a sparwe.’* 


Then, in his sweetest and most caressing voice, he compliments her, 
and says: 

* “Thanked be God that you yaf soule and lif, 

Yet saw I not this day so faire a wif 

In all the chirche, God so save me.”** 


Have we not here already Tartuffe and Elmire? But the monk is with 
a farmer, and can go more straight and quick to his task. Compliments 


' Canterbury Tales, prologue, ii. p. 7, v. 208 et passim. 
® Ibid. The Sompnoures Tale, ii. p. 220, v. 7319-7340. 
3 Ibid. p. 221, v. 7366. * Ibid. p, 221, v. 7384. 5 Ibid. p. 222, v. 7389. 





124 THE SOURCE, — [BOOK I. 


ended, he thinks of the substance, and asks the lady to let him talk 
alone with Thomas, He must inquire after the state of his soul: 


* **T wol with Thomas speke a litel throw: 
Thise curates ben so negligent and slow 
To gropen tendrely a conscience. . . , 
Now, dame,” quod he, ‘‘jeo vous die sanz doute, 
Have I nat of a capon but the liver, 

And of your white bred nat but a shiver, 
And after that a rosted pigges hed, 
(But I ne wolde for me no beest were ded,) 
Than had I with you homly suffisance, 
I am a man of litel sustenance, 
My spirit hath his fostring in the Bible, 
My body is ay so redy and penible 

* To waken, that my stomak is destroied.”’’! 


Poor man, he raises his hands to heaven, and ends with a sigh. 

The wife tells him her child died a fortnight before. Straightway 
he composes a miracle; was he not earning his money? He hada 
revelation of this death in the ‘dortour’ of the convent; he saw the 
child carried to paradise ; he rose with his brothers, ‘with many a tere 
trilling on our cheke,’ and they sang a Te Deum; 


* « For, sire and dame, trusteth me right wel, 
Our orisons ben more effectuel, 
And more we seen of Cristes secree thinges 
Than borel folk, although that they be kinges, 
We live in poverte, and in abstinence, 
And borel folk in richesse and dispence. . . . 
Lazar and Dives liveden diversely, 
And divers guerdon hadden they therby.”’? 


Presently he spurts out a whole sermon, in monkish style, with mani- _ 


fest intention. The sick man, wearied, replies that he has already 
given half his fortune to all kinds of monks, and yet he continually 
suffers. Listen to the grieved exclamation, the true anger of the 
mendicant monk, who sees himself threatened by the meeting with a 
brother to share his client, his revenue, his booty, his food-supplies: 


‘The frere answered: ‘*O Thomas, dost thou so? 
What nedeth you diverse freres to seche ? 
What nedeth him that hath a parfit leche, 
To sechen other leches in the toun ? 
Your inconstance is your confusion, 
Hold ye than me, or elles our covent, 
To pray for you ben insufficient ? 
Thomas, that jape n’ is not worth a mite, 
Your maladie is for we han to lite.”’* 





1 Canterbury Tales, ii. The Sompnoures Tale, p. 222, v. 7397-7429, 
# bid. p. 223, v. 7450-7460, 3 Ibid. p. 226, v. 7536-7544, 














a ieee are 
el 





CHAP. Il] THE NEW TONGUE. * 125 


Recognise the great orator; he employs even the grand style to keep 
the supplies from being cut off: 

*** A, yeve that covent half a quarter otes ; 

And yeve that covent four and twenty grotes ; 

And yeve that frere a peny, and let him go : 

Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so. 

What is a ferthing worth parted on twelve? 

Lo, eche thing that is oned in himselve 

1s more strong, than whan it is yscatered . . . 

Thou woldest han our labour al for nought.”’* 


Then he begins again his sermon in a louder tone, shouting at each 
word, quoting examples from Seneca and the classics, a terrible fluency, 
a trick of his trade, which, diligently applied, must draw money from 
the patient. He asks for gold, ‘to make our cloistre,’ 


« “ And yet, God wot, uneth the fundament 
Parfourmed is, ne of our pavement 
N’ is not a tile yet within our wones : 
By God, we owen fourty pound for stones. 
Now help, Thomas, for him that harwed helle, 
For elles mote we oure bokes selle, 
And if ye lacke oure predication, 
Than goth this world all to destruction. 
For who so fro this world wold us bereve, 
So God me save, Thomas, by your leve, 
He wold bereve out of this world the sonne.”’* 


In the end, Thomas, in a rage, promises him a gift, tells him to put his 
hand in the bed and take it, and sends him away duped, mocked, and 
defiled. 

We have descended now to popular farce: when amusement must 
be had at any price, it is sought, as here, in broad jokes, even in 
filthiness. We can see how these two coarse and vigorous plants have 
blossomed in the dung of the middle age. Planted by the cunning 
men of Champagne and Ile-de-France, watered by the trouvéres, they 
were destined fully to expand, bespattered and ruddy, in the hands of 
Rabelais. Meanwhile Chaucer plucks his nosegay from it. Deceived 
husbands, tricked innkeepers, accidents in bed, kicks, and robberies,— 
these suffice to raise a hearty laugh. Side by side with noble pictures 
of chivalry, he gives us a train of Flemish grotesque figures, carpen- 
ters, joiners, friars, summoners; blows abound, fists descend on fleshy 
backs; many nudities are shown; they swindle one another out of 
their corn, their wives; they pitch one another out of a window; they 
brawl and quarrel. A bruise, a piece of open filthiness, passes in such 
society for a sign of wit. The summoner, being rallied by the friar, 
gives him tit for tat: 


1 Canterbury Tales, ii. The Sompnoures Tale, p. 226, v. 7545-7553. 
3 Ibid. p. 230, v. 7685-7695. 





eee 


126 THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


‘** This Frere bosteth that he knoweth helle, 
And, God it wot, that is but litel wonder, 
Freres and fendes ben but litel asonder. 

For parde, ye han often time herd telle 
How that a Frere ravished was to helle 
In spirit ones by a visioun, 
And as an angel Jad him up and doun, ° 
To shewen him the peines that ther were, . . 
And unto Sathanas he lad him doun. 
(And now hath Sathanas,” saith he, ‘‘a tayl 
Broder than of a carrike is the sayl.) 
Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas, quod he, 
«+++... and let the Frere see 
Wher is the nest of Freres in this place, 

_ and er than half a furlong way of space, 
Right so as bees out swarmen of an hive, 
Out ef the devils . . . ther gonnen to drive, . . . 
A twenty thousand Freres on a route, 
And thurghout hell they swarmed al aboute, 
And com agen, as fast as they may gon.”’? 


Such were the coarse buffooneries of the popular imagination. 


Vv. 


It is high time to return to Chaucer himself. Beyond the two 
notable characteristics which settle his place in his age and school of 
poetry, there are others which take him out of his age and school, If 
he was romantic and gay like the rest, it was after a fashion of his own. 
He observes characters, notes their differences, studies the coherence of 
their parts, endeavours to bring forward living and distinct persons,— 
a thing unheard of in his time, but which the renovators in the six- 
teenth century, and first amongst them Shakspeare, will do afterwards. 
It is the English positive good sense, and aptitude for seeing the inside . 
of things, beginning to appear. A new spirit, almost manly, pierces 
through, in literature as in painting, with Chaucer as with Van Eyck, 
with both at the same time; no longer the childish imitation of 
chivalrous life? or monastic devotion, but the grave spirit of inquiry 
and craving for deep truths, whereby art becomes complete. For the 
first time, in Chaucer as in Van Eyck, character stands out in relief; 
its parts are held together; it is no longer an unsubstantial phantom, 
You may comprehend its past and see its present action. Its externals 
manifest the personal and incommunicable details of its inner nature, 
and the infinite complexity of its economy and motion. To this day, 
after four centuries, that character is individualised, and typical; it 
remains distinct in our memory, like the creations of Shakspeare and 





1 Canterbury Tales, ii. The Sompnour’s Prologue, p. 217, v. 7254-7279. 
2 See in The Canterbury Tales the Rhyme of Sir Topas, a parody on the chival- 
ric histories. Each character there seems a precursor of Cervantes, 











CHAP. II.) THE NEW TONGUE. 127 


Rubens. We observe this growth in the very act. Not only does 
Chaucer, like Boccacio, bind his tales into a single history; but in 
addition—and this is wanting in Boccacio—he begins with the portrait 
of all his narrators, knight, summoner, man of law, monk, bailiff or 
reeve, host, about thirty distinct figures, of every sex, condition, age, 
each painted with his disposition, face, costume, turns of speech, little 
significant actions, habits, antecedents, each maintained in his character 
by his talk and subsequent actions, so well, that we can discern here, 
before any other nation, the germ of the domestic novel as we write 
it to-day. Think of the portraits of the franklin, the miller, the men- 
dicant friar, and merchant. There are plenty of others which show the 
broad brutalities, the coarse tricks, and the pleasantries of vulgar life, as 
well as the gross and plentiful feastings of sensual life. Here and there 
honest old soldiers, who double their fists, and tuck up their sleeves ; 
or the contented beadles, who, when they have drunk, will speak 
nothing but Latin. But by the side of these there are select characters ; 
the knight, who went on a crusade to Granada and Prussia, brave and 
courteous: 








* And though that he was worthy he was wise, 
And of his port as meke as is a mayde. 

He never yet no vilanie ne sayde 

In alle his lif, unto no manere wight, 


He was a veray parfit gentil knight.”* 


‘With him, ther was his sone, a yonge Squier, 

A lover, and a lusty bacheler, 

With lockes crull as they were laide in presse. 

Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse. 

Of his stature he was of even lengthe, 

And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe, 

And he hadde be somtime in chevachie, 

In Flaundres, in Artois, and in Picardie, 

And borne him wel, as of so litel space, 

In hope to stonden in his ladies grace. 
Embrouded was he, as it were a mede 

Alle ful of fresshe floures, white and rede. 

Singing he was, or floyting alle the day, 

He was as fresshe, as is the moneth of May. 

Short was his goune, with sleves long and wide. 

Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride. 

He cote songes make, and wel endite, 

Juste and eke dance, and wel pourtraie and write, 

So hote he loved, that by nightertale 

He slep no more than doth the nightingale. 

Curteis he was, lowly and servisable, 

And carf befor his fader at the table.’? 


There is also a poor and learned clerk of Oxford; and finer still, and 








1 Prologue to Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 3, v. 68-72. * Ibid. p. 3, v. 79-100. 





ng ie : 
128 THE SOURCE. [BOOK 


more worthy of a modern hand, the Prioress, ‘Madame Eglantine,* who 
as a nun, a maiden, a great lady, is ceremonious, and shows sign of 
exquisite taste. Would a better be found now-a-days in a German 
, chapter, amid the most modest and lively bevy of sentimental and 
literary canonesses ? o. 


‘Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse, 
That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy ; 
Hire gretest othe n’as but by Seint Eloy ; 
And she was cleped Madame Eglentine, | 
Ful wel she sange the service devine, 
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely ; 
And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly, 
After the scole of Stratford-atte-bowe, 
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe, 
At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle ; 
She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle, 
Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe. 
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe, 
Thatte no drope ne fell upon hire brest. 
In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest. 
Hir over lippe wiped she so clene, 
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene 
Of grese, whan she dronken hadde hire draught, 
Ful semely after hire mete she raught. 
And sikerly she was of grete disport, 
And ful plesant, and amiable of port, 
And peined hire to contrefeten chere 
Of court, and ben estatelich of manere, 
And to ben holden digne of reverence.’* 


Are you offended by these provincial affectations? On the contrary, it 
is delightful to behold these nice and pretty ways, these little affecta- 
tions, the waggery and prudery, the half-worldly, half-monastic smile. 
We inhale a delicate feminine perfume, preserved and grown old under 
the stomacher : 
* But for to speken of hire conscience, 

She was so charitable and so pitous, 

She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous 

Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde, 

Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde 

With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel brede. 

But sore wept she if on of hem were dede, 

Or if men smote it with a yerde smert: 

And all was conscience and tendre herte.’® 


/ Many elderly ladies throw themselves into such affections as these, for 
Jack of others. Elderly! what an objectionable word have I employed! 
She was not elderly : 





1 Prologue to Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 4, v. 118-141. 2 Ibid. p. 5, v. 142-150. 


OMAP, 111] THE NEW TONGUE. 129 


* Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was, 
Hire nose tretis ; hire eyen grey as glas ; 
Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red ; 
But sikerly she hadde a fayre forehed. 

It was almost a spanne brode I trowe ; 
For hardily she was not undergrowe. 

Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware, 
Of small corall aboute hire arm she bare 
A pair of bedes, gauded al with grene ; 
And thereon heng a broche of gold ful shene, 
On whiche was first ywriten a crouned A, 
And after, Amor vincit omnia,’ ! 





A pretty ambiguous device for gallantry or devotion; the lady was 
both of the world and the cloister: of the world, you may see it in her 
dress; of the cloister, you gather it from ‘another Nonne also with 
hire hadde she, that was hire chapelleine, and Preestes thre;’ from the 
Ave Maria which she sings, the long edifying stories which she relates. 
She is like a fresh, sweet, and ruddy cherry, made to ripen in the 
sun, but which, preserved in an ecclesiastical jar, is candied and made 
insipid in the syrup. 

Such is the reflection which begins to dawn, such the high art. 
Chaucer studies here, rather than aims at amusement; he ceases to 
gossip, and thinks; instead of surrendering himself to the facility of 
glowing improvisation, he plans, Each tale is suited to the teller: the 
young squire relates a fantastic and Oriental history; the tipsy miller 
a loose and comical story; the honest clerk the touching legend of 
Griselda, All these tales are bound together, and that much better 
than by Boccacio, by little veritable incidents, which spring from the 
characters of the personages, and such as we light upon in our travels. 
The horsemen ride on in good humour in the sunshine, in the open 
country; they converse. The miller has drunk too much ale, and will 
speak, ‘and for no man forbere.’ The cook goes to sleep on his beast, 
and they play practical jokes on him. The monk and the summoner 
get up a dispute about their respective lines of business. The host 
restores peace, makes them speak or be silent, like a man who has 
long presided in the inn parlour, and who has often had to check 
brawlers. They pass judgment on the stories they listen to: declaring 
that there are few Griseldas in the world; laughing at the misadven- 
tures of the tricked carpenter; drawing a lesson from the moral tale. 
The poem is no longer, as in contemporary literature, a mere procession, 
but a painting in which the contrasts are arranged, the attitudes chosen, 
the general effect calculated, so that life is invigorated; we forget our- 
selves at the sight, as in the case of every life-like work ; and we con- 
ceive the desire to get on horseback on a fine sunny morning, and 





1 Prologue to Canterbury Tales, ¥. 151-162. | 
I 


130 _ ‘THE SOURCE. ~ [Book 1. 


canter along green meadows with the pilgrims to the shrine of the good 
saint of Canterbury. 

Weigh the value of this general effect. Is it a dream or not, in 
its maturity or infancy? The whole future is before us, Sayages or 
half savages, warriors of the Heptarchy or knights of the middle-age; 
up to this period, no one had reached to this point. They had strange 


» emotions, tender at times, and they expressed them each according to 


( 


the gift of his race, some by short cries, others by continuous babble. 
But they did not command or guide their impressions; they sang or 
conversed by impulse, at hazard, according to the bent of their disposi- 
tion, leaving their ideas to present themselves, and to take the lead; 
and when they hit upon order, it was ignorantly and involuntarily. 
Here for the first time appears a superiority of intellect, which at the 
instant of conception suddenly halts, rises above itself, passes judgment, 
and says to itself, ‘ This phrase tells the same thing as the last—remove 
it; these two ideas are disjointed—bind them together; this descrip- 
tion is feeble—reconsider it.’ When a man can speak thus he has an 
idea, not learned in the schools, but personal and practical, of the 
human mind, its process and needs, and of things also, their composi- 
tion and combinations; he has a style, that is, he is capable of making 
everything understood and seen by the human mind, He can extract 
from every object, landscape, situation, character, the special and signi- 
ficant marks, so as to group and arrange them, to compose an artificial 
work which surpasses the natural work in its purity and completeness. 
He is capable, as Chaucer was, of seeking out in the old common forest 
of the middle-ages, stories and legends, to replant them in his own soil, 
and make them send out new shoots. He has the right and the power, 
as Chaucer had, of copying and translating, because by dint of retouch- 
ing he impresses on his translations and copies his original mark; he 
recreates what he imitates, because through or by the side of worn-out 


fancies and monotonous stories, he can display, as Chaucer did, the 


charming ideas of an amiable and elastic mind, the thirty master-forms 


of the fourteenth century, the splendid freshness of the moist landscape — 


and spring-time of England. He is not far from conceiving an idea of 
truth and life. He is on the brink of independent thought and fertile 
discovery. This was Chaucer’s position. At the distance of a century 
and a half, he has affinity with the poets of Elizabeth’ by his gallery 
of pictures, and with the reformers of the sixteenth century by his 
portrait of the good parson, 

Affinity merely. He advanced a few steps beyond the threshold of 





4 Tennyson, in his Dream of Fair Women, sings: 
‘Dan Chaucer, the first warbler, whose sweet breath 
Preluded those melodious bursts, that fill 
The spacious times of great Elizabeth 
With sounds that echo still.’—Tr. 





CHAP, I1.] THE NEW TONGUE. 131 


his art, but he paused in the vestibule. He half opens the great door 
of the temple, but does not take his seat there ; at most, he sat down 
at intervals. In Arcite and Palamon, in Troilus and Cressida, he 
sketches sentiments, but does not create characters; he easily and 
ingeniously traces the winding course of events and conversations, but 
does not mark the precise outline of a striking figure. If occasionally, 
as in the description of the temple of Mars, after the Thebaid of Statius, 
feeling at his back the glowing breeze of poetry, he draws out his feet, 
clogged with the mud of the middle-age, and at a bound stands upon 
the poetic plain on which Statius imitated Virgil and equalled Lucan, 
he, at other times, again falls back into the childish gossip of the 
trouvéres, or the stale pedantry of learned clerks—to ‘ Dan Phebus or 
Apollo-Delphicus.’~ Elsewhere, a commonplace remark on art intrudes 
in the midst of an impassioned description. He uses three thousand 
verses to conduct Troilus to his first interview. He is like a preco- 
cious and poetical child, who mingles in his love-dreams quotations 
from his prayer-book and recollections of his alphabet. Even in the 
Canterbury Tales he repeats himself, unfolds artless developments, for- 
gets to concentrate his passion or his idea. He begins a jest, and 
scarcely ends it. He dilutes a bright colouring in a monotonous stanza. 
His voice is like that of a boy breaking into manhood. At first a 
manly and firm accent is maintained, then a shrill sweet sound shows 
that his growth is not finished, and that his strength is subject to weak- 
ness. Chaucer sets out as if to quit the middle-age; but in the end he 
is there still. To-day he composes the Canterbury Tales; yesterday he 
was translating the Roman de la Rose. To-day he is studying the com- 
plicated machinery of the heart, discovering the issues of primitive 
education or of the ruling disposition, and realising the comedy of 
manners; to-morrow, he will have no pleasure but in curious events, 
smooth allegories, amorous discussions, imitated from the French, or 
learned moralities from the ancients. Alternately he is an observer 
and a trouvére ; instead of the step he ought to have advanced, he has 
but made a half-step. 

Who has prevented him, and the others who surround him? We 
meet with the obstacle in his tale of Melibeus, of the Parson, in his 
Testament of Love; in short, so long as he writes verse, he is at his 
ease ; as soon as he takes to prose, a sort of chain winds around his feet 


and stops him. His imagination is free, and his reasoning a slave. } 


The rigid scholastic divisions, the mechanical manner of arguing and 





1 Speaking of Cressida, rv., book i. p. 236, he says: 
* Right as our first letter is now an a, 
In beautie first so stood she makeles, 
Her goodly looking gladed all the prees, 
Nas never seene thing to be praised so derre, 
Nor under cloude blacke so bright a sterre,’ 





132 THE SOURCE. - [BooK 1. 


replying, the ergo, the Latin quotations, the authority of Aristotle and 
the Fathers, come and weigh down his budding thought. His native 
invention disappears under the discipline imposed. ‘The servitude is 
so heavy, that even in his Testament of Love, amid the most touching 
plaints and the most smarting pains, the beautiful ideal lady whom he 
has always served, the heavenly mediator who appears to him in a 
vision, Love, sets her theses, establishes that the cause of a cause is 
the cause of the thing caused, and reasons as pedantically as they . 
would at Oxford. In what can talent, even genius, end, when it loads 
itself with such shackles? What succession of original truths and new 
doctrines could be found and proved, when in a moral tale, like that 
of Melibeus and his wife Prudence, it was thought necessary to estab- 
lish a formal controversy, to quote Seneca and Job, to forbid tears, to 
bring forward the weeping Christ to authorise tears, to enumerate every 
proof, to call in Solomon, Cassiodorus, and Cato; in short, to write a 
book for schools? The public has only pleasant and lively thoughts ; 
not serious and general ideas; they are retained in the possession of 
others. As soon as Chaucer gets into a reflective mood, straightway 
Saint Thomas, Peter Lombard, the manual of sins, the treatise on defi- 
nition and syllogism, the army of the ancients and of the Fathers, 
descend from their glory, enter his brain, speak in his stead; and the 
trouvére’s amiable voice becomes, though he has no suspicion of it, the 
dogmatic and sleep-inspiring voice of a doctor. In love and satire he 
has experience, and he invents; in what regards morality and philosophy 
he has learning, and renienibers. For an instant, by a solitary leap, he 
entered upon the close observation and the genuine study of man; he 
could not keep his ground, he did not take his seat, he took a poetic 
excursion ; and no one followed him. The level of the century is 
lower; he is on it himself for the most part. He is in the company of 
narrators like Froissart, of elegant speakers like Charles of Orléans, of 
gossipy and barren verse-writers like Gower, Lydgate, and Occleve. 
There is no fruit, but frail and fleeting blossom, many useless branches, 
still more dying or dead branches ; such is this literature. And why? 
Because it had no longer a root ; after three centuries of effort, a heavy 
instrument cut it under ground. This instrument was the Scholastic 
Philosophy. 


VI. 

Beneath every literature there isa philosophy. Beneath every work 
of art is an idea of nature and of life; this idea leads the poet. Whether 
the author knows it or not, he writes in order to exhibit it; and the 
characters which he fashions, like the events which he arranges, only 
serve to bring to light the dim creative conception which raises and com- 
bines them. Underlying Homer appears the noble life of heroic pagan- 
ism and of happy Greece. Underlying Dante, the sad and violent lifeof 
fanatical Catholicism and of the much-hating Italians. From eitherwe 


~~ he? 


CHAP, III} THE NEW TONGUE. 133 


might draw a theory of man and of the beautiful. It is so with others; 
and this is how, according to the variations, the birth, blossom, death, 
or sluggishness of the master-idea, literature varies, is born, flourishes, 
degenerates; comes to an end, Whoever plants the one, plants the 
other; whoever undermines the one, undermines the other. Place in 
all the minds of any age a new grand idea of nature and life, so that 
they feel and produce it with their whole heart and strength, and you 
will see them, seized with the craving to express it, invent forms of art 
and groups of figures, Take away from these minds every grand new 
idea of nature and life, and you will see them, deprived of the craving 
to express all-important thoughts, copy, sink into silence, or rave. 

What has become of these all-important thoughts? What labour 
worked them out? What studies nourished them? The labourers 
did not lack zeal. In the twelfth century the energy of their minds 
was admirable. At Oxford there were thirty thousand scholars. No 
building in Paris could contain the crowd of Abelard’s disciples; when 
he retired to solitude, they accompanied him in such a multitude, that the 
desert became a town. No suffering repulsed them. There is a story 
of a young boy, who, though beaten by his master, was wholly bent 
on remaining with him, that he might still learn. When the terrible 
encyclopedia of Aristotle was introduced, all disfigured and unintelli- 
gible, it was devoured. The only question presented to them, that of 
universals, so abstract and dry, so embarrassed by Arabic obscurities 
and Greek subtilties, during three centuries, was seized upon eagerly. 
Heavy and awkward as was the instrument supplied to them, I mean 
syllogism, they made themselves masters of it, rendered it still more 
heavy, used it upon every object, in every sense, They constructed 
monstrous books, by multitudes, cathedrals of syllogism, of unheard of 
architecture, of prodigious exactness, heightened in effect by intensity 
of intellectual power, which the whole sum of human labour has only 
twice been able to match.’ These young and valiant minds thought 
they bad found the temple of truth; they rushed at it feadlong, in 
legions, breaking in the doors, clambering over the walls, leaping into 
the interior, and so found themselves at the bottom of a moat. Three 
centuries of labour at the bottom of this. black moat added no single 
idea to the human mind. 

For consider the questions which they treat of. They seem to be 
marching, but are merely marking time. One would say, to see them 
moil and toil, that they will educe from heart and brain some great 
original creed; all belief was imposed upon them from the outset. 





* Under Proclus and Hegel. Duns Scotus, at the age of thirty-one, died, leaving 
beside his sermons and commentaries, twelve folio volumes, in a small close hand- 
writing, in a style like Hegel’s, on the same subject as Proclus treats of.’ Similarly 
with Saint ‘thomas and the whole train of schoolmen, Ma Mescen. be formed. of 
such a labour before handling the books themselves, 





> i 


134 THE SOURCE. — [BOOK f. 


The system was made; they could only arrange and comment upon it. 
The conception comes not from them, but from Constantinople. In- 
finitely complicated and subtle as it is, the finishing work of Oriental 
mysticism and Greek metaphysics, so disproportioned to their young 
understanding, they exhaust themselves to reproduce it, and moreover 
burden their unpractised hands with the weight of a logical instrument 
which Aristotle created for theory and not for practice, and which ought 
to have remained in a cabinet of philosophical curiosities, without being 
ever carried into the field of action. ‘Whether the divine essence 
engendered the Son, or was engendered by the Father; why the three 
persons together are not greater than one alone; attributes determine 
persons, not substance, that is, nature; how properties can exist in 
the nature of God, and not determine it; if created spirits are local 
and circumscribed; if God can know more things than He is aware 
of ;’1—these are the ideas which they moot: what truth could issue 
thence? From hand to hand the chimera grows, and spreads wider its 
gloomy wings. ‘Can God cause that, the place and body being re- 
tained, the body shall have no position, that is, existence in place ?— 
Whether the impossibility of being engendered is a constituent property 
of the First Person of the Trinity—-Whether identity, similitude, and 
equality are real relations in God.’* Duns Scotus distinguishes three 
kinds of matter: matter which is firstly first, secondly first, thirdly first. 
According to him, we must clear this triple hedge of thorny abstractions 
in order to understand the production of a sphere of brass. Under 
such a regimen, imbecility soon makes its appearance. Saint Thomas 
himself considers, ‘ whether the body of Christ arose with its wounds,— 
whether this body moves with the motion of the host and the chalice in 
consecration,—whether at the first instant of conception Christ had the 
use of free judgment,—whether Christ was slain by Himself or by 


another?’ Do you think you are at the limits of human folly? Listen. — 


He considers ‘ whether the dove in which the Holy Spirit appeared was 
a real anim4&l,—whether a glorified body can occupy one and the same 
place at the same time as another glorified body,—whether in the state 
of innocence all children were masculine?’ I pass over others as to the 
digestion of Christ, and some still more untranslatable.* This is the 
point reached by the most esteemed doctor, the most judicious mind, 
the Bossuet of the middle-age. Even in this ring of inanities the 





* Peter Lombard, Book of Sentences. 1 was the classic of the middle-age. 

2 Duns Scotus, ed. 1639. 

* Utrum angelus diligat se ipsum dilectione naturali vel electiva? Utrum in 
statu innocentiw fuerit generatio per coitum? Utrum omnes fuissent nati in sexu 
masculino? Utrum cognitio angeli posset dici matutina et vespertina? Utrum 
martyribus aureola debeatur? Utrum virgo Maria fuerit virgo in concipiendo? 
Utrum remanserit virgo post partum? ‘The reader would do well to look out in 
apes 46 the reply to these last two questions. (S. Thomas, Summa Theologica, ed. 
1677.) * 





CHAP. IIL] THE NEW TONGUE. 135 


answers are Jaid down. Roscelin and Abelard were excommunicated, 
exiled, imprisoned, because they swerved from it. ‘There is a complete 
minute dogma which closes all issues; there is no means of escaping; 
after a hundred wriggles and a hundred efforts, you must come and 
tumble into a formula. If by mysticism you try to fly over their heads, 
if by experience you endeavour to creep beneath, powerful talons 
await you at your exit. The wise man passes for a magician, the en- 
lightened man for a heretic. The Waldenses, the Cathari, the dis- 
ciples of John of Parma, were burned; Roger Bacon died only just im 
time, otherwise he might have been burned. Under this constraint 
men ceased to think; for he who speaks of thought, speaks of an effort 
at invention, an individual creation, an energetic action, They recite 
a lesson, or sing a catechism; even in paradise, even in ecstasy and the 
divinest raptures of love, Dante thinks himself bound to show an exact 
memory and a scholastic orthodoxy. How then with the rest? Some, 
like Raymond Lully, set about inventing an instrument of reasoning to 
serve in place of the understanding. About the fourteenth century, 
under the blows of Occam, this verbal science began to totter; they 
saw that it had no other substance but one of words; it was discredited. 
In 1367, at Oxford, of thirty thousand students, there remained six thou- 
sand; they still set their Barbara and Felapton, but only in the way of 
routine. Each one in turn mechanically traversed the petty region of 
threadbare cavils, scratched himself in the briars of quibbles, and bur- 
dened himself with his bundle of texts; nothing more. The vast body 
of science which was to have formed and vivified the whole thought of 
man, was reduced to a text-book. 

So, little by little, the conception which fertilised and ruled all 
others, dried up; the deep spring, whence flowed all poetic streams, 
was found empty; science furnished nothing more to the world. 
What further works could the world produce? As Spain, later on, 
renewing the middle-age, after having shone splendidly and vainly 
by her chivalry and devotion, by Lope de Vega and Calderon, Loyola 
and St. Theresa, became enervated through the Inquisition and through 
casuistry, and ended by sinking into a brutish silence; so the middle- 
age, outstripping Spain, after displaying the senseless heroism of the 
crusades, and the poetical ecstasy of the cloister, after producing 
chivalry and saintship, Francis of Assisi, St. Louis, and Dante, 
languished under the Inquisition and the scholastic learning, and 
became extinguished in idle raving and inanity. 

Must we quote all these good people who speak without having | 
anything to say ? You may find them in Warton;* dozens of trans- 
lators, importing the poverties of French literature, and imitating 
imitations; rhyming chroniclers, most commonplace of men, whom 
we only read because we must accept history from every quarter, 


~~... 


—_— 





1 Hist, of English Poetry, vol. ii, 





136 THE SOURCE. - [BooK £ 


even from imbeciles; spinners and spinsters of didactic stories, who 
pile up verses on the training of falcons, on armour, on chemistry ; 
editors of moralities, who invent the same dream over again for the 
hundredth time, and get themselves taught universal history by the 
goddess Sapience. Like the writers of the Latin decadence, these 
folk only think of copying, compiling, abridging, constructing text- 
books, in rhymed memoranda, the encyclopedia of their times. 

Will you hear the. most illustrious, the grave Gower —‘ morall 
Gower,’ as he was called?* Doubtless here and there he contains a 
remnant) of brilliancy and grace. He is like an old secretary of a 
Court of Love, André le Chapelain or any other, who would pass the 
day in solemnly registering the sentences of ladies, and in the evening, 
partly asleep on his desk, would see in a half-dream their sweet smile 
and their beautiful: eyes.? The ingenious but exhausted vein of 
Charles of Orléans still flows in his French ballads. He has the same 


fine delicacy, almosta little finicky. The poor little poetic spring — 


flows yet in thin transparent films under the smooth pebbles, and 
murmurs with a babble, pretty, but so weak that at times you cannot 
hear it. But dullis the rest! His great poem, Confessio Amanitis, is 
a dialogue between a lover and his confessor, imitated chiefly from 
Jean de Meung, having for object, like the Roman de la Rose, to 
explain and classify the impediments of love. The superannuated 
theme is always reappearing, and beneath it an indigested erudition. - 
You will find here an exposition of hermetic science, a treatise on the 
philosophy of Aristotle, a discourse on politics, a litany of ancient and 
modern legends gleaned from the compilers, marred in the passage by 
the pedantry of the schools and the ignorance of the age. It is a cart- 
load of scholastic rubbish; the sewer tumbles upon this feeble spirit, 
which of itself was flowing clearly, but now, obstructed by tiles, bricks, 
plaster, ruins from all quarters of the globe, drags on darkened and 
slackened. Gower, one of the most learned of his time,® supposed 
that Latin was invented by the old prophetess Carmens; that the 
grammarians, Aristarchus, Donatus, and Didymus, regulated its 
syntax, pronunciation, and prosody; that it was adorned by Cicero 
with the flowers of eloquence and rhetoric; then enriched by trans- 
lations from the Arabic, Chaldean, and Greek; and that at last, after 
much labour of celebrated writers, it attained its final perfection in 
Ovid, the poet of love. Elsewhere he discovers that Ulysses learned 
rhetorie from Cicero, magic from Zoroaster, astronomy from Ptolemy, 
and philosophy from Plato. And what a style! so long, so dull,* so 





1 Contemporary with Chaucer. The Confessio Amantis dates from 1393, 

® History of Rosiphele, Ballads, 

% Warton, ii. 240. 

* See, for instance, his description of the sun’s crown, the most poetical passage 
in book vi, 








—oam——————_a 





CHAP, IIL] THE NEW TONGUE. 137 


drawn out by repetitions, the most minute details, garnished with 
references to his text, like a man who, with his eyes glued to his 
Aristotle and his Ovid, a slave of his musty parchments, can do 
nothing but copy and string his rhymes together. Scholars even in 
old age, they seem to believe that every truth, all wit, is in their 
wood-bound books; that they have no need to find out and 
invent for themselves; that their whole business is to repeat; that 
this is, in fact, man’s business. The scholastic system had enthroned 
the dead letter, and peopled the world with dead understandings. 
After Gower come Occleve and Lydgate. ‘My futher Chaucer 
would willingly have taught me,’ says Occleve, ‘ but I was dull, and 
learned little or nothing.’ He paraphrased in verse a treatise of 
Egidius, on government; these are moralities. There are others, on 
compassion, after Augustine, and on the art of dying; then love-tales ; 
a letter from Cupid, dated from his court in the month of May. Love 
and moralities,* that is, abstractions and refinements, were the taste 
of the time ; and so, in the time of Lebrun, of Esménard, at the close 
of contemporaneous French literature,*® they produced collections of 
didactic poems, and odes to Chloris. As for the monk Lydgate, he 
had some talent, some imagination, especially in high-toned descrip- 
tions: it was the last flicker of a dying literature; gold received a 
golden coating, precious stones were placed upon diamonds, ornaments 
multiplied and made fantastic; as in their dress and buildings, so 
in their style‘ Look at the costumes of Henry tv. and Henry v., 
monstrous heart-shaped or horn-shaped head-dresses, long sleeves 
covered with ridiculous designs, the plumes, and again the oratories, 
armorial tombs, little gaudy chapels, like conspicuous flowers under 
the naves of the Gothic perpendicular. When we can no more speak 
to the soul, we try to speak to the eyes. This is what Lydgate does, 
nothing more. Pageants or shows are required of him, ‘ disguisings’ 
for the Company of goldsmiths; a mask before the king, a May-enter- 
tainment for the sheriffs of London, a drama of the creation for the 
festival of Corpus Christi, a masquerade, a Christmas show; he gives 
the plan and furnishes the verses, In this matter he never runs dry ; 
two hundred and fifty-one poems are attributed to him. Poetry thus 
conceived becomes a manufacture ; it is composed by the yard. Such 
was the judgment of the Abbot of St. Albans, who, having got him to 
translate a legend in verse, pays a hundred shillings for the whole, 
verse, writing, and illuminations, placing the three works on a level. 





1 1420, 1430. 

* This is the title Froissart (1397) gave to his collection when presenting it to 
Richard rm. 

* Lebrun, 1729-1807 ; Esménard, 1770-1812. 

* Lydgate, The Destruction of Troy—description of Hector'’s chapel. Especially 
read the Pageants or Solemn Entries, 


. 


138 - THE SOURCE. [BOOK I. 


In fact, no more thought was required for one than for the others. 
His three great works, Zhe Fall of Princes, The Destruction of Troy, 
and The Siege of Thebes, are only translations or paraphrases, verbose, 
erudite, descriptive, a kind of chivalrous processions, coloured for the 
twentieth time, in the same manner, on the same vellum. The only 
point which rises above the average, at least in the first poem, is the 
idea of Fortune,! and the violent vicissitudes of human life. If there 
was a philosophy at this time, this was it. They willingly narrated 
horrible and tragic histories; gather them from antiquity down to 
their own day; they were far from the trusting and passionate piety 
which felt the hand of God in the government of the world; they saw ' 
that the world went blundering here and there like a drunken man. 

A sad and gloomy world, amused by external pleasures, oppressed 

with a dull misery, which suffered and feared without consolation or 

hope, isolated between the ancient spirit in which it had no living 

hope, and the modern spirit. whose active science it ignored. Fortune, 

like a black smoke, hovers over all, and shuts out the sight of heaven. 

They picture it as follows :— 








* Her face semyng cruel and terrible 
And by disdayné menacing of loke, ... 
An hundred handes she had, of eche part. . « 
Some of her handés lyft up men alofte, 
To hye estate of worldlye dignita ; 
Another handé griped ful unsofte, 
Which cast another in grete adversite,’? 


They look upon the great unhappy ones, a captive king, a dethroned 
queen, assassinated princes, noble cities destroyed,* lamentable spec- 
tacles as exhibited in Germany and France, and of which there 
will be plenty in England; and they can only regard them with a 
harsh resignation. Lydgate ends by reciting a commonplace of ~ 
mechanical piety, by way of consolation. The reader makes the sign 
of the cross, yawns, and goes away. In fact, poetry and religion 0 
are no longer capable of suggesting a genuine sentiment. Authors 
copy, and copy again. Hawes* copies the House of Fame of Chaucer, 
and a sort of allegorical amorous poem, after the Roman de la Rose. 
Barclay ° translates the Mirror of Good Manners and the Ship of Fools. 
Continually we meet with dull abstractions, used up and barren ; it is 
the scholastic phase of poetry. If anywhere there is an accent of 





? See the Vision of Fortune, a gigantic figure. In this painting he shows both 
feeling and talent. 

2 Lydgate, Fall of Princes. Warton, ii. 280. 

* The War of the Hussites, The Hundred Years’ War, and The War of the 
Roses. 

* About 1506. The Temple of Glass. Passetyme of Pleasure, 

6 About 1500. Ve a 


CHAP. III] THE NEW TONGUE. 139 


greater originality, it is in this Ship of Fools, and in Lydgate’s Dance of 
Death, bitter buffooneries, sad gaieties, which, in the hands of artists 
and poets, were having their run throughout Europe. They mock at 
each other, grotesquely and gloomily ; poor, dull, and vulgar figures, 
shut up in a ship, or made to dance on their tomb to the sound of a 
fiddle, played by a grinning skeleton, At the end of all this mouldy 
talk, and amid the disgust which they have conceived for each other, 
a clown, a tavern Triboulet,’ composer of little jeering and macaronic 
verses, Skelton* makes his appearance, a virulent pamphleteer, who, 
jumbling together French, English, Latin phrases, with slang, and 
fashionable words, invented words, intermingled with short rhymes, 
fabricates a sort of literary mud, with which he bespatters Wolsey 
and the bishops. Style, metre, rhyme, language, art of every kind, is 
at an end; beneath the vain parade of official style there is only a heap 
of rubbish. Yet, as he says, 

‘Though my rhyme be ragged, 

Tattered and 

Rudely rain-beaten, 

Rusty, moth-eaten, 

Yf ye take welle therewithe, 

It hath in it some pithe.’ 
It is full of political animus, sensual liveliness, English and popular 
instincts; it lives, It is a coarse life, still elementary, swarming with 
ignoble vermin, like that which appears in a great decomposing body. 
It ‘is life, nevertheless, with its two great features which it is destined 
to display: the hatred of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is the 
Reformation ; the return to the senses and to natural life, which is the 
Renaissance. 


















2 The court fool in Victor Hugo's drama of Le Roi s’amuse.—Tn. 

? Died 1529 ; Poet Laureate 1489. His Bouge of Court, his Crown of Laurel, 
his Blegy on the Death of the Earl of Northumberland, are well written, and 
belong to official poetry. 


Seen 
’ rl a 4 7 . 


—— 


BOOK Tf. 
THE RENAISSANCE. 


a 


CHAPTER L 


The Pagan Renaissance.: 


1, Manners or THE TIME. 


I. Idea which men had formed of the world, since the dissolution of the old 
society—How and why human inventiveness reappears—The form of the 
spirit of the Renaissance—The representation of objects is imitative, cha- 
racteristic, and complete. f 

II. Why the ideal changes—Improvement of the state of man in Europe—In 
England — Peace — Industry — Commerce — Pasturage — Agriculture — 
Growth of public wealth — Buildings and furniture — The palace, meals 
and habits—Court pageantries—Celebrations under Elizabeth — Masques 
under James I. 

III. Manners of the people—Pageants—Theatres—Village feasts—Pagan develop- 

ment. 

IV. Models—The ancients—Translation and study of classical authors—Sym- 

pathy for the manners and mythology of the ancients—the moderns— 

Taste for Italian writings and ideas—Poetry and painting in Italy were 

pagan—The ideal is the strong and happy man, limited by the present 

world. 





2. Portry., 


I. The English Renaissance is the Renaissance of the Saxon genius, | 
IL. The forerunners—The Earl of Surrey—His feudal and chivalrous life—His 
' English individual character—His serious and melancholy poems—His 
of intimate love, 
III. His style—His masters, Petrarch and Virgil—His progress, power, preco- 
cious perfection—Birth of art—Weaknesses, imitation, research—Art in- 


complete. 

TV. Growth and completion of art-—Zuphues and fashion—Style and spirit of the 
Renaissance —Copiousness and irregularity—How manners, style, and 
spirit correspond—Sir Philip Sydney—His education, life, character—His 
learning, gravity, generosity, forcible expression—the Arcadia—Exaggera- 
tion and mannerism of sentiments and style—Defence of Poesie—Eloquence 
and energy—His sonnets—Wherein the body and the passions of the 


142 THE RENAISSANCE. t [BOOK Il. 


Renaissance differ from those of the moderns—Sensual love—Mystical 
love. 


V. Pastoral poetry—The great number of poets—Spirit and force of the poetry © 
—State of mind which produces it—Love of the country—Reappearance of 
the ancient gods—Enthusiasm for beauty —Picture of ingenuous and happy 
love—Shakspeare, Jonson, Fletcher, Drayton, Marlowe, Warner, Breton, 
Lodge, Greene—How the transformation of the people transforms art. 

VI. Ideal poetry—Spenser—His life—His character—His platonism—His Hymns 

of Love and Beauty—Copiousness of his imagination— How far it was suited 

for the epic—Wherein it was allied to the ‘faégrie’—His tentatives—Shep- 

herd’s Calendar—His short poems—His masterpiece—The Faérie Queene J 

—His epic is allegorical and yet life-like—It embraces Christian chivalry : 

and the Pagan Olympia—How it combines these. : 

VII. The Faérie Queene—Impossible events—How they appear natural—Belphebe ‘ 
and Chrysogone—Fairy and gigantic pictures and landscapes—Why they 
must be so—The cave of Mammon, and the gardens of Acrasia—How 

Spenser composes— Wherein the art of the Renaissance is complete. 








8. Prose. 


I. Limit of the poetry—Changes in society and manners—How the return to 
nature becomes an appeal to the senses—Corresponding changes in poetry 
—How agreeableness replaces energy— How prettiness replaces the beautiful } 
—Refinements—Carew, Suckling, Herrick—A ffectation—Quarles, Herbert, 
Babington, Donne, Cowley—Beginning of the classic style, and the draw- 
ing-room life, 

Il. How poetry passed into prose—Connection of science and art—In Italy—In 
England—How the triumph of nature develops the exercise of the natural 
reason—Scholars, historians, speakers, compilers, politicians, antiquarians, 
philosophers, theologians—The abundance of talent, and the rarity of fine 
works —Superfluousness, punctiliousness, and pedantry of the style— # 
Originality, precision, energy, and richness of the style—How, unlike the 
classical writers, they represent the individual, not the idea. 

III. Robert Burton—His life and character—Vastness and confusion of his re- 
quirements—His subject, the Anatomy of Melancholy—Scholastic divisions 
— Medley of moral and medical science. 

IV. Sir Thomas Browne—His talent—His imagination is that of a North-man— 
Hydriotaphia, Religio Medici— His ideas, curiosity, and doubts belong to 
the age of the ~Renaissance—Pseudodoxia—LEffects of this activity and 
this direction of the public mind. 

V. Francis Bacon—His talent—His originality—Concentration and brightness 
of his style—Comparisong and aphorisms—The Zssays—His style not 3 
argumentative, but intuitive—His practical good sense—Turning-point of 
his philosophy—The object of science is the amelioration of the condition 
of man—New Atlantis—The idea is in accordance with the state of affairs 
and the spirit of the times—It completes the Renaissance—It introduces a 
new method—The Organum—Where Bacon stopped—Limits of the spirit 
of the age—How the conception of the world, which had been poetic, be- 
came mechanical—How the Renaissance ended in the establishment of 
positive science, 


CHAP. I.) — THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 143 


1. Manners or THe Tre. 


L 


OR seventeen centuries a deep and sad thought had weighed upon 
the spirit of man, first to overwhelm it, then to exalt and to 
weaken it, never loosing its hold throughout this long space of time. 
It was the idea of the impotence and decadence of man. Greek cor- 
ruption, Roman oppression, and the dissolution of the old world, had 
given it birth; it, in its turn, had produced a stoical resignation, an 
epicurean indifference, Alexandrian mysticism, and the Christian hope 
in the kingdom of God, ‘The world is evil and lost, let us escape by 
insensibility, amazement, ecstasy.’ Thus spoke the philosophers; and 
religion, coming after, announced that the end was near: ‘ Prepare, for 
the kingdom of God is at hand.’ For a thousand years universal ruin 
incessantly drove still deeper into their hearts this gloomy thought ; 
and when man in the feudal state raised himself, by sheer force of 
courage and arms, from the depths of final imbecility and general 
misery, he discovered his thought and his work fettered by the crush- 
ing idea, which, forbidding a life of nature and worldly hopes, erected 
into ideals the obedience of the monk and the dreams of fanatics. 

It degenerated of itself. For the natural result of such a concep- 
tion, as of the miseries which engender it, and the discouragement 
which it gives rises to, is to paralyse personal action, and to replace 
originality by submission. From the fourth century, gradually the 
dead letter was substituted for the living faith, Christians resigned 
themselves into the hands of the clergy, they into the hands of the Pope. 
Christian opinions were subordinated to theologians, and theologians 
to the Fathers. Christian faith was reduced to the accomplishment 
of works, and works to the accomplishment of ceremonies, Religion 
flowing during the first centuries, had become hardened and crystal- 
lised, and the coarse contaet of the barbarians placed on it, in addition, 
a layer of idolatry: theocracy and the Inquisition manifested themselves, 
the monopoly of the clergy and the prohibition of the Scriptures, the 
worship of relics and the purchase of indulgences, In place of Chris- 
tianity, the church; in place of free belief, an imposed orthodoxy ; in 
place of moral fervour, determined religious praetices; in place of 
heart and energetic thought, external and mechanical discipline: these 
are the characteristics of the middle-age. Under this constraint a 
thinking society had ceased to think; philosophy was turned into a text- 
book, and poetry into raving; and mankind, slothful and crouching, 
made over their conscience and their conduct into the hands of their 
priests, and were as puppets, capable only of reciting a catechism and 
chanting a hymn." 


, 1 See, at Bruges, the pictures of Hemling (fifteenth century). No painting 
enables us to understand so well the ecclesiastical piety of the middle-age, which 
was altogether like that of the Buddhists, 








144 THE RENAISSANCE, [BOOK 11. 


- At last invention makes another start; and it makes it by the 
efforts of the lay society, which rejected theocracy, kept the State free, 
and which presently discovered, or re-discovered, one after another, the 
industries, sciences, and arts. All was renewed; America and the 
Indies were added to the map ; the shape of the earth was ascertained, the 
system of the universe propounded, modern philology was inaugurated, 
the experimental sciences set on foot, art and literature shot forth like a 
harvest, religion was transformed: there was no province of human intelli- 
gence and action which was not refreshed and fertilised by this universal 
effort. It wasso great, that it passed from the innovators to the laggards, 
and reformed Catholicism in the face of Protestantism which it formed. 
It seems as though men had suddenly opened their eyes, and seen. In 
fact, they attain a new and superior kind of intelligence. It is the 
proper feature of this age, that men no longer make themselves masters 
of objects by bits, or isolated, or through scholastic or mechanical classi- 
fications, but as a whole, in general and complete views, with the eager 
grasp of a sympathetic spirit, which, being placed ‘before a vast object, 
penetrates it in all its parts, tries it in all its relations, appropriates and 
assimilates it, impresses upon himself its living and potent image, so 
life-like and so powerful, that he is fain to translate it into externals 
through a work of art or an action. An extraordinary warmth of soul, 
a superabundant and splendid imagination, reveries, ‘visions, artists, 
believers, founders, creators,—that is what such a form of intellect pro- 
duces; for to create we must have, as had Luther and Loyola, Michael 
Angelo and Shakspeare,! an idea, not abstract, partial, and dry, but well 
defined, finished, sensible,—a true creation, which acts inwardly,’ and 
struggles to appear to the light. This was Europe’s grand age, and the 
most notable epoch of human growth. To this day we live from its 
sap, we only carry on its pressure and efforts. 


II. 


When human power is manifested so clearly and in such great 
works, it is no ‘wonder if the ideal changes, and the old pagan idea 
recurs. It recurs, bringing with it the worship of beauty and vigour, 
first in Italy ; for this, of all countries in Europe, is the most pagan, 
the nearest to the ancient civilisation; thence in France and Spain, in 
Flanders, even in Germany; and finally in England. How is it pro- 
pagated? What revolution of manners reunited mankind at this time, 
in every country, under a sentiment which they had forgotten for 
fifteen hundred years? Merely that their condition had improved, and 
they felt it. The idea ever expresses the actual situation, and the 
creatures of the imagination, like the conceptions of the spirit, only 
manifest the state of society and the degree of its welfare; there is a 





1 Van Orley, Michel Coxie, Franz Floris, the de Vos’, the Sadlers, Crispin de 
Pass, and the artists of Nuremberg. 














cnaP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 145 


fixed connection between what man admires and what he is. While 
misery overwhelms him, while the decadence is visible, and hope shut 
out, he is inclined to curse his life on earth, and seek consolation in 
another sphere. As soon as his sufferings are alleviated, his power 
made manifest, his perspective enlarged, he begins once more to love 
the present life, to be self-confident, to love and praise energy, genius, 
all the effective faculties which labour to procure him happiness. 
About the twentieth year of Elizabeth's reign, the nobles gave up shield 
and two-handed sword for the rapier ;' a little, almost imperceptible 
fact, yet vast, for it is like the change which, sixty years ago, made us 
give up the sword at court, to leave us with our arms swinging about 
in our black coats. In fact, it was the close of feudal life, and the 
beginning of court-life, just as to-day court-life is at an end, and the 
democratic reign has begun. With the two-handed swords, heavy 
coats of mail, feudal dungeons, private warfare, permanent dis- 
order, all the scourges of the middle-age retired, and were wiped out 
in the past. ‘The English had finished with the Wars of the Roses. 
They no longer ran the risk of being pillaged to-morrow for being 
rich, and hung the next day for being a traitor; they have no further 
need to furbish up their armour, make alliances with powerful nations, 
lay in stores for the winter, gather together men-at-arms, scour the 
country, to plunder and hang others.* The monarchy, in England as 
throughout Europe, established peace in the community,*® and with 
peace appeared the useful arts. Domestic comfort follows civil security ; 
and man, better furnished in his home, better protected in his hamlet, 
takes pleasure in his life on earth, which he has changed, and means 
to change. 

Toward the elose of the fifteenth century * the impetus was given ; 
. commerce and the woollen trade made a sudden advance, and such an 
enormous one that corn-fields were changed into pasture-lands, ‘ whereby 
the inhabitants of the said town (Manchester) have gotten and come 
into riches and wealthy livings,’® so that in 1553, 40,000 pieces of 
cloth were exported in English ships. It was already the England which 
we see to-day, a land of meadows, green, intersected by hedgerows, 
crowded with cattle, abounding in ships, a manufacturing opulent 
land, with a people of beef-eating toilers, who enrich it while they 





1 The first carriage was in 1564. It caused much astonishment. Some said 
that it was ‘a great sea-shell brought from China ;’ others, ‘that it was a temple 
in which cannibals worshipped the devil.’ 

? For a picture of this state of things, see Fen’s Paston Letters. 

Louis xt. in France, Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain, Henry vit. in England. 
In Italy the feudal regime ended earlier, by the establishment of republics and 


41488, Act of Parliament on Enclosures. - 
5 A Compendious Examination, 1581, by Wamiaee Mirada: Act of Parlia- 
ment, 1541, 
K 


146 ” ° THE ‘RENAISSANCE. ° {Book m 


enrich themselves. They improved agriculture to such an extent, that 
in half a century’ the produce of an acre was doubled.? They grew 
so rich, that at the beginning of the reign of Charles 1. the Commons 
represented three times the wealth of the Upper House. The ruin of 
Antwerp® by the Duke of Parma sent to England ‘the third part of 
the merchants and manufacturers, who made silk, damask, stockings, 
taffetas, and serges.’ The defeat of the Armada and the decadence of 
Spain opened the seas to their merchants.* The toiling hive, who would 
dare, attempt, explore, act in unison, and always with profit, was about 
to reap its advantages and set out on its voyages, buzzing over the 
universe. 

At the base and on the summit of society, in all ranks of life, 
in all grades of human condition, this new welfare became visible. In 
1534, considering that the streets of London were ‘very noyous and 
foul, and in many places thereof very jeopardous to all people passing 
and repassing, as well on horseback as on foot,’ Henry vi. began 
the paving of the city.° New streets covered the open spaces where 
the young men used to run and fight. Every year the number of 
taverns, theatres, rooms for recreation, places devoted to bear-baiting, 
increased. Before the time of Elizabeth the country-houses of gentle- 
men were little more than straw-thatched cottages, plastered with the 
coarsest clay, lighted only by trellises. ‘Howbeit,’ says Harrison 
(1580), ‘such as be latelie builded are commonlie either of bricke 
or hard stone, or both; their roomes large and comelie, and houses 
of office further distant¢from their lodgings.’ The old wooden houses 
were covered with plaster, ‘whieh, beside the delectable whitenesse 
of the stuffe itselfe, is laied on so even and smoothlie, as nothing 
in my judgment can be done with more exactnesse.’® This open 
admiration shows from what hovels they had escaped. Glass was 
at last employed for windows, and the bare walls were covered with 
tapestries, on which visitors might see, with delight and astonish- 
ment, plants, animals, figures. They began to use stoves, and experi- 
enced the unwonted pleasure of being warm. Harrison notes three 


important changes which had taken place in the farm-houses’ of his 


time :— 


‘One is, the multitude of chimnies lately erected, Jcins in their yoong daies © 





1 Pict. History, ii. 902. 

2 Between 1377 and 1583 the increase was two millions and a half. 

In 1585; Ludovie Guicciardini. 

* Henry vill. at the beginning of his reign had but one shipofwar. Elizabeth 
sent out one hundred and fifty against the Armada. In 1553 was founded a com- 
pany to trade with Russia. In 1578 Drake aga Alb the globe. In 1600 
the East India Company was founded, 

5 Pict. Hist. ii. 781. 


® Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, 1817, i. y. 72 et passim, 











Ld ad —— 2 fem + > = = 
See >i 7 i 


omar. 1.) THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 147 


there were not above two or three, if so manic, in most uplandishe townes of the 
realme. . . . The second is the great amendment of lodging, although not generall, for 
our fathers, (yea and we ourselves also) have lien full oft upon straw pallets, on 
rough mats covered onelie with a sheet, under coverlets made of dagswain, or hop- 
harlots, and a good round log under their heads, insteed of a bolster or pillow. If 
it were so that the good man of the house, had within seven yeares after his mar- 
riage purchased a matteres or flockebed, and thereto a sacke of chaffe to rest his 
head upon, he thought himselfe to be as well lodged as the lord of the towne... . . 
Pillowes (said they) were thought meet onelie for women in childbed. .. . The third 
thing is the exchange of vessell, as of treene platters into pewter, and wodden 
spoones into silver or tin ; for so common was all sorts of treene stuff in old time, 
that a man should hardlie find four peeces of pewter (of which one was peradventure 
@ salt) in a good farmers house."* 


It is not possession, but acquisition, which gives men pleasure and 
sense of power; they observe sooner a small happiness, new to them, 
than a great happiness which is old. It is not when all is good, but 
when all is better, that they see the bright side of life, and are tempted 
to make a holiday of it. This is why at this period they did make a 
holiday of it, a splendid show, so like a picture that it fostered painting 
in Italy, so like a representation, that it produced the drama in England. 
Now that the battle-axe and sword of the civil wars had beaten down 
the independent nobility, and the abolition of the law of maintenance had 
destroyed the petty royalty of each great feudal baron, the lords quitted 
their sombre castles, battlemented fortresses, surrounded by stagnant 
water, pierced with narrow windows, a sort of stone breastplates of no 
use but to preserve the life of their masters, They flock into new 
palaces, with vaulted roofs and turrets, covered with fantastic and 
manifold ornaments, adorned with terraces and vast staircases, with 
gardens, fountains, statues, such as were the palaces of Henry vu. 
and Elizabeth, half Gothic and half Italian,? whose convenience, gran- 
deur, and beauty announced already habits of society and the taste for 
pleasure. They came to court and abandoned their old manners; the 
four meals which scarcely sufficed their former voracity were reduced to 
two; gentlemen soon became refined, placing their glory in the elegance 
and singularity of their amusements and their clothes. They dressed, 
magnificently in splendid materials, with the luxury of men who rustle 
silk and make gold sparkle for the first time: doublets of scarlet satin ; 
cloaks of sable costing a thousand ducats; velvet shoes, embroidered 
with gold and silver, covered with rosettes and ribbons; boots with 
falling tops, from whence hung a cloud of lace, embroidered with figures 
of birds, animals, constellations, flowers in silver, gold, or precious 
stones; ornamented shirts costing ten pounds. ‘It is a common thing 
to put a thousand goats and a hundred oxen on a coat, and to carry a 





1 Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Timea, i. v. 102. 
_ * This was called the Tudor style. Under James 1., in the hands of Inigo 


Jones, it became entirely Italian, approaching the antique. 


148 — "THE RENAISSANCE, [BooK IL 


whole manor on one’s back.’* The costumes of the time were like 
shrines. When Elizabeth died, they found three thousand dresses in 
her wardrobe. Need we speak of the monstrous ruffs of the ladies, 
their puffed out dresses, their stomachers stiff with diamonds? As a 
singular sign of the times, the men were more changeable and more 
bedecked than they.. Harrison. says: : 


‘Such is our mutabilitie, that to daie there is none to the Spanish guise, to 
morrow the French toies are most fine and delectable, yer long no such apparell as 
that which is after the high Alman fashion, by and by the Turkish maner is gene- 
rallie best liked of, otherwise the Morisco gowns, the Barbarian sleeves... and 
the short French breeches. ... And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it 
is a world to see the costlinesse and the curiositie ; the excesse and the vanitie ; 
the pompe and the braverie ; the change and the varietie ; and finallie, the fickle- 
nesse and the follie that is in all degrees.’? 


Folly, it may have been, but poetry likewise. There was something 
more than puppyism in this masquerade of splendid costume. The 
overflow of inner sentiment found this issue, as also in drama and poetry. 
It was an artistic spirit which induced it. There was an incredible 
outgrowth of living forms from their brains. They acted like their 
engravers, who give us in their frontispieces a prodigality of fruits, 
flowers, active figures, animals, gods, and pour out -and confuse the 
whole treasure of nature in every corner of their paper. They must 
enjoy the beautiful; they would be happy through their eyes; they 
perceive in consequence naturally the relief and energy of forms. From 
the accession of Henry vit. to the death of James I. we find nothing 
but tournaments, processions, public entries, masquerades. First come 


the royal banquets, coronation displays, large and noisy pleasures of 


Henry vin. Wolsey entertains him 


‘In so gorgeous a sort and costlie maner, that it was an heaven to behold. There 


wanted no dames or damosels meet or apt to danse with the maskers, or to garnish _ 


the place for the time: then was there all kind of musike and harmonie, with fine 
voices both of men and children. On a time the king came suddenlie thither in a 
maske with a dozen maskers all in garments like sheepheards, made of fine cloth of 
gold, and crimosin sattin paned, ... having sixteene torch-bearers. ... In 
came a new banket before the king wherein were served two hundred diverse 
dishes, of costlie devises and subtilities. Thus passed they foorth the night with 
banketting, dansing, and other triumphs, to the great comfort of the king, and 
pleasant regard of the nobilitie there assembled.’ * 


Count, if you can,‘ the mythological entertainments, the theatrical re- 





1 Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 12th ed. 1821. Stubbes, Anatomie of 
Abuses, ed. Turnbull, 1836. 


# Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, ii. 6, 87. 
§ Holinshed (1586), 1808, 6 vols. iii. 768 et passim. 


Nichols. 


* Holinshed, iii., Reign of Henry VIII. Llizabeth and James Progresses, by | 








CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 149 


ceptions, the open-air operas played before Elizabeth, James, and their 
great lords. At Kenilworth the pageants lasted ten days. There was 
everything; learned recreations, novelties, popular plays, sanguinary 

coarse farces, juggling and feats of skill, allegories, mytho- 
logies, chivalric exhibitions, rustic and national commemorations. At 
the same time, in this universal outburst and sudden expanse, men be- 
come interested in themselves, find their life desirable, worthy of being 
represented and put on the stage complete; they play with it, delight 
in looking upon it, love its heights and depths, and make of it a work 
of art. The queen is received by a sibyl, then by giants of the time of 
Arthur, then by the Lady of the Lake, Sylvanus, Pomona, Ceres, and 
Bacchus, every divinity in turn presents her with the first fruits of his 
empire. Next day, a savage, dressed in moss and ivy, discourses before 
her with Echo in her praise. Thirteen bears are set fighting against 
dogs. An Italian acrobat performs wonderful feats before the whole 
assembly. A rustic marriage takes place before the queen, then a 
sort of comic fight amongst the peasants of Coventry, who represent the 
defeat of the Danes. As she is returning from the chase, Triton, 
rising from the lake, prays her, in the name of Neptune, to deliver the 
enchanted lady, pursued by ruthless Sir Bruce. Presently the lady 
appears, surrounded by nymphs, followed close by Proteus, who is 
borne by an enormous dolphin. Concealed in the dolphin, a band of 
musicians with a chorus of ocean-deities, sing the praise of the power- 
ful, beautiful, chaste queen of England. You perceive that comedy is 
not confined to the theatre; the great of the realm and the queen her- 
self become actors. The cravings of the imagination are so keen, that 
the court becomes a stage. Under James 1, every year, on Twelfth- 
day, the queen, the chief ladies and nobles, played a piece called a 
Masque, a sort of allegory combined with dances, heightened in effect 
by decorations and costumes of great splendour, of which the mytho- 
logical paintings of Rubens can alone give an idea:— 

‘The attire of the lords was from the antique Greek statues, On their heads 
they wore Persic crowns, that were with scrolls of gold plate turned outward, and 
wreathed about with a carnation and silver net-lawn. Their bodies were of car- 
nation cloth of silver; to express the naked, in manner of the Greek thorax, girt 
under the breasts with a broad belt of cloth of gold, fastened with jewels ; the mantles 
were of coloured silks ; the first, sky-colour ; the second, pearl-colour ; the third, 
flame-colour ; the fourth, tawny. The ladies attire was of white cloth of silver, 

with Juno's birds and fruits; a loose under garment, full gathered, of 
carnation, striped with silver, and parted with a golden zone ; beneath that, another 
flowing garment, of watchet cloth of silver, laced with gold ; their hair carelessly 
bound under the circle of a rare and rich coronet, adorned with all variety, and 
choice of jewels; from the top of which flowed a transparent veil, down to the 
ground. Their shoes were azure and gold, set with rubies and diamonds,’ 


I abridge the description, which is like a fairy tale. Fancy that all 





~ 1 Ben Jonson's works, ed. Gifford, 1816, 9 vols. Masque of Hymen, vol. vii. 76. 


: : i ~ 
- 
. L 
- 


150 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK It. 


these costumes, this glitter of materials, this sparkling of diamonds, this 
splendour of nudities, was displayed daily at the marriage of the great, 
to the bold sounds of a pagan epithalamium. Think of the feasts which 
the Earl of Carlisle introduced, where was served first of all a table 
loaded with sumptuous viands, as high as a man could reach, in order 
to remove it presently, and replace it by another similar table. This 
prodigality of magnificence, these costly follies, this unbridling of the 
imagination, this intoxication of eye and ear, this comedy played by the 
lords of the realm, showed, like the pictures of Rubens, Jordaens, and 
their Flemish contemporaries, .so open an appeal to the senses, so com- 
plete a return to nature, that our chilled and gloomy age is scarcely 
able to imagine it.’ 


Ill. 


To vent the feelings, to satisfy the heart and eyes, to set free boldly 
on all the roads of existence the pack of appetites and instincts, this was 
the craving which the manners of the time betrayed. It was ‘merry 
England,’ as they called it then. It was not yet stern and constrained. 
It expanded widely, freely, and rejoiced to find itself so expanded. No 
longer at court only was the drama found, but in the village. Strolling 
companies betook themselves thither, and the country folk supplied any: 
deficiencies, when necessary. Shakspeare saw, before he depicted them, 
stupid fellows, carpenters, joiners, bellow-menders, play Pyramus and 
Thisbe,? represent the lion roaring as gently as possible, and the wall, 
by stretching out their hands. Every holiday was a pageant, in which 
townspeople, workmen, and children bore their parts,. They were actors 
by nature. When the soul is full and fresh, it does not express its 
ideas by reasonings; it plays and figures them ; it mimics rer ‘that 


is the true and original language, the children’s tongue, the speech of 


artists, of invention, and of joy. It is in this manner they please them- 
selves with songs and feasting, 6n all the symbolic holidays with which 
tradition: has filled the year.* On the Sunday after Twelfth-night the 
labourers parade the streets, with their shirts over their coats, decked 
with ribbons, dragging a plough to the sound of music, and dancing a 
sword-dance ; on another day they draw in a cart a figure made of ears 
of corn, with songs, flutes, and drums; on another, Father Christmas 
and his company; or else they enact the history of Robin Hood, the 
bold poacher, around the May-pole, or the legend of Saint George and 
the Dragon. We might occupy half a volume in describing all these 
holidays, such as Harvest Home, All Saints, Martinmas, Sheepshearing, 





1 Certain private letters also describe the court of Elizabeth as a place where 
there was little piety or practice of religion, and where all enormities reigned in 
the highest degree. 

® Midsummer Nighi’s Dream. 

% Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, chap. vy. and vi. 7 


7 
et edge | 





=, 





a? —_— a a a ¢ r. £F - 
eae se 


CHAP. Ly THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 151 


above all Christmas, which lasted twelve days, and sometimes six weeks. 
They eat and drink, junket, tumble about, kiss the girls, ring the bells, 
satiate themselves with noise: coarse drunken revels, in which man is 
an unbridled animal, and which are the incarnation of natural life. The 
Puritans made no mistake about that. Stubbes says: 


*First, all the wilde heades of the parishe, conventying together, chuse them a 
ground capitaine of mischeef, whan they innoble with the title of my Lorde of 
Misserule, and hym they crown with great solemnitie, and adopt for their kyng. 
This kyng anoynted, chuseth for the twentie, fourtie, three score, or a hundred 
lustie guttes like to hymself to waite uppon his lordely maiestie. . . . Then have 
they their hobbie hoyses, dragons, and other antiques, together with their baudie 
pipers and thunderyng drommers, to strike up the devilles daunce withall ; then 
marche these heathen companie towardes the churche and churche-yarde, their 
pipers pipyng, their drommers thonderyng, their stumppes dauncyng, their belles 
rynglyng, their handkerchefes swyngyng about their heades like madmen, their 
hobbie horses and other monsters skirmishyng amongest the throng; and in this 
sorte they goe to the churche (though the minister bee at praier or preachyng), 
dauncyng, and swingyng their handkercheefes over their heades, in the churche, 
like devilles incarnate, with such a confused noise, that no man can heare his owne 
voice. Then the foolishe people they looke, they stare, they laugh, they fleere, and 
mount upon formes and pewes, to see these goodly pageauntes, solemnized in this sort. 
Then after this, aboute the churche they goe againe and againe, and so forthe into 
the churche-yarde, where they have commonly their sommer haules, their bowers, 
arbours, and banquettyng houses set up, wherein they feaste, banquet, and daunce 
all that daie, and peradventure all that night too. And thus these terrestrial furies 
spend the Sabbaoth daie! ... An other sorte of fantasticall fooles bringe to these 
helhoundes (the Lorde of Misrule and his complices) some bread, some good ale, 
some newe cheese, some olde cheese, some custardes, some cakes, some flaunes, some 
tartes, some créame, some meate, some one thing, some an other.’ 


He continues thus: 


* Against Maie, every parishe, towne and village assemble themselves together, 
bothe men, women, and children, olde and yong, even all indifferently ; they goe 
to the woodes where they spende all the night in pleasant pastymes, and in the 
mornyng they returne, bringing with them birch, bowes, and branches of trees, to 
deck their assemblies withall. But their cheefest iewell they bringe from thence is 
their Maie poole, whiche they bring home with great veneration, as thus: They 
have twenty or fourtie yoke of oxen, every ox havyng a sweete nosegaie of flowers 
tyed on the tippe of his hornes, and these oxen drawe home this Maie poole (this 
stinckyng idoll rather) . . . and thus beyng reared up, they strawe the grounde 
aboute, binde greene boughes about it, sett up sommer haules, bowers, and arbours 
hard by it ; and then fall they to banquet and feast, to leape and daunce aboute it, 
as the heathen people did at the dedication of their idolles. .. . Of a hundred 
maides goyng to the woode over night, there have searcely the third parte returned 
home againe undefiled."* 


-£On Shrove Tuesday,’ says another,* ‘at the sound of a bell, the 





1 Stubbes, Anatomie of Abuses, p. 168 et passim. 
* Hentzner’s 7'ravels in England (Bentley's translation). He thought that the 
figure carried about in the Harvest Home represented Ceres, 


152 THE RENAISSANCE, — [BOOK It. 


folk become insane, thousands at a time, and forget all decency and 
common sense. . . . It is to Satan and the devil that they pay Homage 
and do sacrifice in these abominable pleasures.’ It is in fact to nature, 
to the ancient Pan, to Freya, to Hertha, her sisters, to the old Teutoni¢ 
deities who survived the middle-age. At this period, in the temporary 
decay of Christianity, and the sudden advance of corporal well-being, 
man adored himself, and there endured no life within him but that of 
paganism, 


IV. 


To sum up, observe the process of ideas at this time. A few sec- 
tarians, chiefly in the towns and of the people, clung gloomily to the 
Bible. But the court and the men of the world sought their teachers 
and their heroes from pagan Greece and Rome. About 1490! they 
began to read the classics; one after the other they translated them; 
it was soon the fashion to read them in the original. Elizabeth, Jane 
Grey, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Arundel, many other 
ladies, were conversant with Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero in the original, 
and appreciated them. Gradually, by an insensible change, men were 
raised to the level of the great and healthy minds who had freely 


handled ideas of all kinds fifteen centuries ago. They comprehended 


not only their language, but their thought; they did not repeat lessons 
from, but held conversations with them; they were their equals, and 
found in them intellects as manly as their own. For they were not 
scholastic cavillers, miserable compilers, repulsive pedants, like the pro- 
fessors of jargon whom the middle-age had set over them, like gloomy 
Duns Scotus, whose leaves Henry vi.’s Visitors scattered to the 
winds. They were gentlemen, statesmen, the most polished and best 
educated men in the world, who knew how to speak, and drew their 
ideas not from books, but from things, living ideas, and which entered 
of themselves into living souls. Across the train of hooded schoolmen 
and sordid ecavillers the two adult and thinking ages were united, and 
the moderns, silencing the infantine or snuffling voices of the middle- 
age, condescended only to converse with the noble ancients. They 
accepted their gods, at least they understand them, and keep them by 
their side. In poems, festivals, tapestries, almost all ceremonies, they 
appear, not restored by pedantry merely, but kept alive by sympathy, 
and glorified by the arts of an age as flourishing and almost as profound 
as that of their earliest birth. After the terrible night of the middle-age, 
and the dolorous legends of spirits and the damned, it was a delight to 
see again Olympus shining upon us from Greece; its heroic and beauti- 
ful deities once more ravishing the heart of men; they raised and in- 





? Warton, vol. ii. sect. 85. Before 1600 all the great poets were translated 
into English, and between 1550 and 1616 all the great historians of Greece and 
Rome, Lyly in 1500 first taught Greek in public, 


a = 








CHAP, I] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 153 


structed this young world by speaking to it the language of passion and 
genius; and the age of strong deeds, free sensuality, bold invention, 
had only to follow its own bent, in order to discover in them the eternal 
promoters of liberty and beauty. 

Nearer still was another paganism, that of Italy; the more seductive 
because more modern, and because it circulates fresh sap in an ancient 
stock; the more attractive, because more sensuous and present, with 
its worship of force and genius, of pleasure and voluptuousness. The 
rigorists knew this well, and were shocked at it. Ascham writes: 

‘These bee the inchantementes of Circes, brought out of Italie to marre mens 
maners in England ; much, by example of ill life, but more by preceptes of fonde 
bookes, of late translated out of Italian into English, sold in every shop in 
London. . . . There bee moe of these ungratious bookes set out in Printe wythin 
these fewe monethes, than have bene sene in England many score yeares before. 
. » » Than they have in more reverence the triumphes of Petrarche: than the 
Genesis of Moses: They make more account of Tullies offices, than 8S. Paules 
epistles: of a tale in Bocace than a storie of the Bible.’! 


In fact, at that time Italy clearly led in everything, and civilisation was 
to be drawn thence, as from its spring. What is this civilisation which 
is thus imposed on the whole of Europe, whence every science and 
every elegance comes, whose laws are obeyed in every court, in which 
Surrey, Sidney, Spenser, Shakspeare sought their models and their 
materials? It was pagan in its elements and its birth; in its language, 
which is but slightly different from Latin; in its Latin traditions and 
recollections, which no gap has come to interrupt; in its constitution, 
whose old municipal life first led and absorbed the feudal life; in the 
genius of its race, in which energy and enjoyment always abounded. 
More than a century before other nations, from the time of Petrarch, 
Rienzi, Boccacio, the Italians began to recover the lost antiquity, to de- 
liver the manuscripts buried in the dungeons of France and Germany, 
to restore, interpret, comment upon, study the ancients, to make them- 
selves Latin in heart and mind, to compose in prose and verse with the 
polish of Cicero and Virgil, to hold spirited converse and intellectual 
pleasures as the ornament and the fairest flower of life.* They adopt 
not merely the externals of the old existence, but the elements, that is, 
preoccupation with the present life, forgetfulness of the future, the 
appeal to the senses, the renunciation of Christianity. ‘We must en- 
joy,’ sang their first poet, Lorenzo de Medici, in his pastorals and 
triumphal songs: ‘there is no certainty of to-morrow.’ In Pulci the 
mocking incredulity breaks out, the bold and sensual gaiety, all the 
audacity of the free-thinkers, who kicked aside in disgust the worn-out 





1 Ascham, The Scholemaster (1570), ed. Arber, 1870, first book, 78 ef passim. 

* Ma il vero e principal ornemento dell’ animo in ciascuno penso io che siano le 
lettere, benchd i Franchesi solamente conoscano la nobilitd dell'arme . . . et tutti 
i litterati tengon per vilissimi huomini. Castiglione, i Cortegiano, ed. 1535, 
p. 112, ‘ 


154 _ THE RENAISSANCE. | [BOOK ID 


monkish frock of the middle-age. It was he who, in a jesting poem, 
puts at the beginning of each canto a Hosanna, an In principio, or 
a sacred text from the mass-book.t When he had been inquiring what 
the soul was, and how it entered the body, he compared it to jam 
covered up in white bread quite hot. What would become of it in the 
other world? ‘Some people think they will there discover fig-peckers, 
plucked ortolans, excellent wine, good beds, and therefore they follow 
the monks, walking behind them. As for us, dear friend, we shall go 
into the black valley, where we shall hear no more Alleluias.’ If you 
wish for a more serious thinker, listen to the great patriot, the Thucy- 
dides of the age, Machiavelli, who, contrasting Christianity and paganism, 
says that the first places ‘supreme happiness in humility, abnegation, 
contempt for human things, while the other makes the sovereign good 
consist in greatness of soul, force of body, and all the qualities which 
make men to be feared.’ Whereon he boldly concludes that Chtis- 
tianity teaches man ‘to support evils, and not to do great deeds;’ he 
discovers in that inner weakness the cause of all oppressions; declares 
that ‘the wicked saw that they could tyrannise without fear over men, 
who, in order to get to paradise, were more disposed to suffer than to 
avenge injuries.’ From this time, and in spite of his constrained genu- 
flexions, you can see which religion he prefers. The ideal to which all 
efforts were turning, on which all thoughts depended, and which com- 
pletely raised this civilisation, was the strong and happy man, fortified 
by all powers to accomplish his wishes, and disposed to use them in 
pursuit of his happiness. 

If you would see this idea in its grandest operation, you must we 
it in the arts, such as Italy made them and carried throughout Europe, 
raising or transforming the national schools with such originality and 


vigour, that all art likely to survive is derived from hence, and the , 


population of living figures with which they have covered our walls, 
denotes, like Gothic architecture or French tragedy, a unique epoch of 


the human intelligence. The attenuated medieval Christ—a miserable, _ 


distorted, and bleeding earth-worm; the pale and ugly Virgin—a poor 
old peasant woman, fainting beside the gibbet of her Son; ghastly 
martyrs, dried up with fasts, with entranced eyes; knotty-fingered 
saints with sunken chests,—all the touching or lamentable visions of 
the middle-age have vanished : the train of godheads which are now 
developed show nothing but flourishing frames, noble, regular features, 
and fine easy gestures; the names, the names only, are Christian. The 
new Jesus is a ‘crucified Jupiter,’ as Pulci called him; the Virgins which 
Raphael designed naked, before covering them with garments,? are 





2 See Burchard, the Pope’s Steward, account of the festival at which Lucretia 
Borgia assisted. Letters of Aretinus, Life of Cellini, etc. 

* See his sketches at Oxford, and the sketches of Fra Bartolomeo at Florence, 
See also the Martyrdom of 8. Laurence, by Baccio Bandinelli. 





| 


. . - 
ALAA At yg oy. 2 


CHAP. L.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 155 


beautiful girls, quite earthly, relatives of the Fornarina. The saints - 
which Michael Angelo arranges and contorts in heaven on the judgment- 
day are an assembly of athletes, capable of fighting well and daring much, 
A martyrdom, like that of Saint Laurentius, is a fine ceremony in which 
a beautiful young man, without clothing, lies amidst fifty men dressed 
and grouped as in an ancient gymnasium. Is there one of them who 
had macerated himself? Is there one who had thought with anguish and 
tears of the judgment of God, who had worn down and subdued his flesh, 
who had filled his heart with the sadness and sweetness of the gospel? 
They are too vigorous for that, they are in too robust health; their clothes 
fit them too closely; they are too ready for prompt and energetic action. 
We might make of them strong soldiers or proud courtesans, admirable 
in a pageant or ata ball. So, all that the spectator accords to their 
halo of glory, is a bow or a sign of the cross; after which his eyes find 
pleasure in them ; they are there simply for the enjoyment of the eyes. 
What the spectator feels at the sight of a Florentine Madonna, is the 
splendid Virgin, whose powerful body and fine growth bespeak her 
race and her vigour; the artist did not paint moral expression as nowa- 
days, the depth of a soul tortured and refined by three centuries of 
culture. They confine themselves to the body, to the extent even of 
speaking enthusiastically of the spinal column itself, ‘which is magni- 
ficent;’ of the shoulder-blades, which in the movements of the arm 
* produce an admirable effect.’ ‘You will next design the bone which 
is situated between the hips. It is very fine, and is called the sacrum.’ 
The important point with them is to represent the nude well. Beauty 
with them is that of the complete skeleton, sinews which are linked 
together and tightened, the thighs which support the trunk, the strong 
chest breathing freely, the pliant neck. What a pleasure to be naked! 
How good it is in the full light to rejoice in your strong body, your 
well-formed muscles, your gay and bold soul! The splendid goddesses 
reappear in their primitive nudity, not dreaming that they are nude; 
you see from the tranquillity of their look, the simplicity of their ex- 
pression, that they have always been thus, and that shame has not yet 
reached them. The soul’s life is not here contrasted, as amongst us, with 
the body's life; the one is not so lowered and degraded, that we dare 
not show its actions and functions; they do not hide them; man does 
not dream of being all spirit. They rise, as of old, from the luminous 
sea, with their rearing steeds tossing up their manes, grinding the bit, 
inhaling the briny savour, whilst their companions wind the sounding- 
Shell; and the spectators,* accustomed to handle the sword, to combat 





1 Benvenuto Cellini, Principles of the Art of Design. 

2 Life of Cellini. Compare also these exercises which Castiglione prescribes 
for a well-educated man, in his Cortegiano, ed. 1585, p. 55:—‘ Perdé voglio che il 
nostro cortegiano sia perfetto cavaliere d’ogni sella, . . . Et perchd degli Italiani 
& peculiar laude il cavalcare bend alla brida, il maneggiar con raggione massima- 





156 THE RENAISSANCE. © [BOOK II. 


naked with the dagger or double-handled blade, to ride on perilous 
roads, sympathise with the proud shape of the bended back, the effort 
of the arm about to strike, the long quiver of the muscles which, from 
neck to heel, swell out, to brace a man, or to throw him. 


2. Poetry. 


I, 

Transplanted into different races and climates, this paganism 
receives from each, distinct features and a distinct character. In 
England it becomes English; the English Renaissance is the Renais- 
sance of the Saxon genius. Invention recommences; and to invent is 
to express one’s genius. A Latin race can only invent by expressing 
Latin ideas; a Saxon race by expressing Saxon ideas; and we shall 
find in the new civilisation and poetry, descendants of Cedmon and 
Adhelm, of Piers Plowman, and Robin Hood, 


IL. 
Old Puttenham says: 

‘In the latter end of the same king (Henry the eight) reigne, sprong up a 
new company of courtly makers, of whom Sir Thomas Wyat th’ elder and Henry 
Earle of Surrey were the two chieftaines, who having travailed into Italie, and 
there tasted the sweete and stately measures and stile of the Italian Poesie, as 
novices newly crept out of the schooles of Dante, Avioste, and Petrarch, they 
greatly pollished our rude and homely maner of vulgar Poesie, from that it had 
bene before, and for that cause may justly be sayd the first reformers of our 
English meetre and stile.’ } 


Not that their style was very original, or openly exhibits the new 
spirit: the middle-age is nearly ended, but it was not yet finished. By 
their side Andrew Borde, John Bale, John Heywood, Skelton himself, 
repeat the platitudes of the old poetry and the coarseness of the old style. 
Their manners, half refined, were still half feudal ; on the field, before 
Landrecies, the English commander wrote a letter to the French governor 
of Térouanne, to ask him ‘if he had not some gentlemen disposed to break 
a lance in honour of the ladies,’ and promised to send six champions to 
meet them. Parades, combats, wounds, challenges, love, appeals to the 
judgment of God, penances,—all these were found in the life of Surrey 
as in a chivalric romance. A great lord, an earl, a relative of the 
king, who had figured in processions and ceremonies, had made war, 
commanded fortresses, ravaged countries, mounted to the assault, fallen 





mente cayalli aspri, il corre lance, il giostare, sia in questo de meglior Italiani, 
. « » Nel torneare, tener un passo, combattere una sbarra, sia buono tra il miglior 
francesi. . . . Nel giocare a canne, correr torri, lanciar haste e dardi, sia tra Spag- 
nuoli eccellente. . . . Conveniente 8 ancor sapere saltare, e correre; . . . ancor 
nobile exercitio il gisco di palla. . . . Non di minor laude estimo il voltegiar a 
cavallo." 

1 Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Arber, 1869, booki. ch. $1, p. 74. 


eee 








CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 157 


in the breach, had been saved by his servant, magnificent, sumptuous, 
irritable, ambitious, four times imprisoned, finally beheaded. At the 
coronation of Ann of Cleves he was one of the challengers of the 
tourney. Denounced and placed in durance, he offered to fight un- 
armed against an armed adversary. Another time he was put in 
prison for having eaten flesh in Lent. No wonder if this prolonga- 
tion of chivalric manners brought with it a prolongation of chivalric 
poetry; if in an age which had known Petrarch, poets displayed the 
sentiments of Petrarch. Lord Berners, Lord Sheffield, Sir Thomas 
Wyatt, and Surrey in the first rank, were, like Petrarch, plaintive 
and platonic lovers, It was pure love to which Surrey gave expres- 
sion; for his lady, the beautiful Geraldine, like Beatrice and Laura, 
was an ideal personage, and a child of thirteen years. 

And yet, amid this languor of mystical tradition, a personal feeling 
had sway. In this spirit which imitated, and that badly at times, 
which still groped for an outlet, and now and then admitted into its 
polished stanzas the old, simple expressions and stale metaphors of 
heralds of arms and trouvéres, there was already visible the Northern 
melancholy, the inner and gloomy emotion. This feature, which 
presently, at the finest moment of its richest blossom, in the splendid 
expansiveness of natural life, spreads a sombre tint over the poetry of 
Sidney, Spenser, Shakspeare, already in the first poet separates this 
pagan yet Teutonic world from the other, all in all voluptuous, which 
in Italy, with lively and refined irony, had no taste, except for art 
and pleasure. Surrey translated the Ecclesiastes into verse. Is it not 
singular, at this early hour, in this rising dawn, to find such a book in 
his hand? A disenchantment, a sad or bitter dreaminess, an innate con- 
sciousness of the vanity of human things, are never lacking in this country 
and in this race; the inhabitants support life with difficulty, and know 

to speak of death. Surrey’s finest verses bear witness thus soon to 
his serious bent, this instinctive and grave philosophy. He records his 
griefs, regretting his beloved Wyatt, his friend Clére, his companion the 
young Duke of Richmond, all dead in their prime. Alone, a prisoner at 
Windsor, he recalls the happy days they have passed together : 


* So cruel prison how could betide, alas, 
As proud Windsor, where I in lust and joy, 
With a Kinges son, my childish years did pass, 
In greater feast than Priam’s son of Troy. 


Where each sweet place returns a taste full sour, 
The large green courts, where we were wont to hove, 
With eyes cast up into the Maiden’s tower, 
And easy sighs, such as folk draw in love. 
The stately seats, the ladies bright of hue. 
The dances short, long tales of great delight, 
With words and looks, that tigers could but rue ; 
Where each of us did plead the other's right. 


158 - THE’ RENAISSANCE. 





The palme-play, where, despoiled for the game, * 
With dazed eyes oft we by gleams of love 

Have miss’d the ball, and got sight of our dame, 
To bait her eyes, which kept the leads above. . . « 

The secret thoughts, imparted with such trust ; 
The wanton talk, the divers change of play ; 

The friendship sworn, each promise kept so just, 
Wherewith we past the winter night away. 


And with his thought the blood forsakes the face ; oe | 


J 
“ 
. 





The tears berain my cheeks of deadly hue: - 
The which, as soon as sobbing sighs, alas! 
Up-supped have, thus I my plaint renew: 


O place of bliss! renewer of my woes! P 
Give me account, where is my noble fere ? 
Whom in thy walls thou dost each night enclose; . 
’ To other lief ; but unto me most dear. 


Echo, alas! that doth my sorrow rue, 
Returns thereto a hollow sound of plaint.’? 


So in love, it is the sinking of a weary soul, to which he gives vent: 


‘For all things having life, sometime hath quiet rest ; 
The bearing ass, the drawing ox, and every other beast ; 
The peasant, and the post, that serves at all assays ; 
The ship-boy, and the galley-slave, have time to take their ease ; 
Save I, alas! whom care of force doth so constrain, 
To wail the day, and wake the night, continually in pain, 
From pensiveness to plaint, from plaint to bitter tears, 
From tears to painful plaint again ; and thus my life it wears.’? 


That which brings joy to others brings him grief: 


* The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings, 
With green hath clad the hill, and eke the vale. : oS 
The nightingale with feathers new she sings ; — 
The turtle to her mate hath told her tale. 9 
Summer is come, for every spray now springs ; 3 
The hart. has hung his old head on the pale ; 
The buck in brake his winter coat he slings ; (VBS 
The fishes flete with new repaired scale ; “| 
The adder all her slough away she flings ; j 
The swift swallow pursueth the flies smale ; ' 
The busy bee her honey now she mings ; { 
Winter is worn that was the flowers’ bale, } 
And thus I see among these pleasant things . 
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs! ’* 





1 Surrey’s Poems, Pickering, 1831, p. 17. ' 
® Ibid. ‘ The faithful lover declareth his pains and his uncertain joys, and with J 
only hope recomforteth his woful heart,’ p. 53. ‘{ 
% Ibid. ‘ Description of Spring, wherein every thing renews, save only the 
lover,’ p. 3. ‘ 


* Bie fel) eh oe wee ae te rh a 
ve « a ° ' 
“A ok ie 
J y 


 omar.t] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCT. 159 


For all that, he will love on to his last sigh. 
* Yea, rather die a thousand times, than once to false my faith ; 
And if my feeble corpse, through weight of woful smart 
Do fail, or faint, my will it is that still she keep my heart. 
And when this carcass here to earth shall be refar'd, 
I do bequeath my wearied ghost to serve her afterward."! 


An infinite love, and pure as Petrarch’s; and she is worthy of it. 
In the midst of all these studied or imitated verses, an admirable por- 
* trait remains distinct, the simplest and truest we can imagine, a work 
of the heart now, and not of the memory, which behind the dame of 
chivalry shows the English wife, and behind the feudal gallantry do- 
mestic bliss. Surrey alone, restless, hears within him the firm tones of 
a good friend, a sincere counsellor, Hope, who speaks to him thus: 


* For I assure thee, even by oath, 

And thereon take my hand and troth, 

That she is one the worthiest, 

The truest, and the faithfullest ; 

The gentlest and the meekest of mind 

That here on earth a man may find : 

And if that love and truth were gone, 

In her it might be found alone. 

For in her mind no thought there is, 

But how she may be true, I wis; 

And tenders thee and all thy heal, 

And wishes both thy health and weal ; 

And loves thee even as far forth than 

As any woman may a man ; 

And is thine own, and so she says ; 

And cares for thee ten thousand ways. 

Of thee she speaks, on thee she thinks ; 
~ With thee she eats, with thee she drinks ; 

With thee she talks, with thee she moans ; 

With thee she sighs, with thee she groans ; 

With thee she says ‘‘ Farewell mine own!” 

When thou, God knows, full far art gone. 

And even, to tell thee all aright, 

To thee she says full oft ‘‘ Good night!” 

And names thee oft her own most dear, 

Her comfort, weal, and all her cheer ; 

And tells her pillow all the tale 

How thou hast done her woe and bale ; 

And how she longs, and plains for thee, 

And says, ‘‘ Why art thou so from me?” 

Am I not she that loves thee best ? 

Do I not wish thine ease and rest? 

Seek 1 not how I may thee please? 

Why art thou so from thine ease? 





' Surrey's Poems, p. 56. 





160 THE RENAISSANCE. [BooK IL 


Tf I be she for whom thou carest, 

For whom in torments so thou farest, 
Alas! thou knowest to find me here, 
Where I remain thine own most dear, 
Thine own most true, thine own most just, 
Thine own that loves thee still, and must ; 
Thine own that cares alone for thee, 

As thou, I think, dost care for me ; 

And even the woman, she alone, 

That is full bent to be thine own.’? 


Certainly it is of his wife* that he is thinking here, not of any 


imaginary Laura, The poetic dream of Petrarch has become the exact | 


picture of deep and perfect conjugal affection, such as yet survives in 
England ; such as all the poets, from the authoress of the Nut-brown 
Maid to Dickens,* have never failed to represent. 


Il. 


An English Petrarch: no juster title could be given to Surrey, 
for it expresses his talent as well as his disposition. In fact, like 
Petrarch, the oldest of the humanists, and the earliest exact writer 
of the modern tongue, Surrey introduces a new style, a manly style, 
which marks a great transformation of the mind; for this new form 
of writing is the result of a superior reflection, which, governing the 
primitive impulse, calculates and selects with an end in view. At 
last the intellect has grown capable of self-criticism, and actually 
criticises itself. It corrects its unconsidered works, infantine and in- 
coherent, at once incomplete and superabundant; it strengthens and 
binds them together ; it prunes and perfects them ; it takes from them 
the master idea, to set it free and in the light of day. This is what 
Surrey does, and his education had prepared him for it; for he had 


studied Virgil as well as Petrarch, and translated two books of the ~ 


Aineid, almost verse for verse. In such company one cannot but select 
one’s ideas and arrange one’s phrases. After their example, he gauges the 
means of striking the attention, assisting the intelligence, avoiding fatigue 
and weariness. He looks forward to the last line whilst writing the 
first. He keeps the strongest word for the last, and shows the symmetry 
of ideas by the symmetry of phrases. Sometimes he guides the intelli- 
gence by a continuous series of contrasts to the final image; a kind of 
sparkling casket, in which he means to deposit the idea which he 





' Ibid. ‘A description of the restless state of the lover when absent from the 
mistress of his heart,’ p. 78. 

* In another piece, Complaint on the Absence of her Lover being upon the Sea, 
he speaks in exact terms of his wife, almost as affectionately. 

* Greene, Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster, Shakspeare, Ford, Otway, Richard- 
son, De Foe, Fielding, Dickens, Thackeray, ete. 


ee ee a ae 








(Bie ee |. 
’ a -~, 
hw 
_ 


cHaP. 1] THE’ PAGAN’ RENAISSANCE. 161 


carries, and to which he directs our attention from the first.’ Some- 
times he leads his reader to the close of a long flowery description, and 
then suddenly checks him with a sorrowful phrase.? He arranges his 
process, and knows how to produce effects; he uses classical expres- 
sions, in which two substantives, each supported by its adjective, are 
balanced on either side of the verb.* He collects his phrases in har- 
monious periods, and does not neglect the delight of the ears any 
more than of the mind. By his inversions he adds force to his ideas, 
and weight to his argument. He selects elegant or noble terms, rejects 
idle words and redundant phrases. Every epithet contains an idea, 
every metaphor a sentiment. There is eloquence in the regular de- 
velopment of his thought; music in the sustained accent of his verse. 
Such is the new-born art. Those who have ideas, now possess an 
instrument capable of expressing them. Like the Italian painters, who 
in fifty years had introduced or discovered all the technical tricks of 
the pencil, English writers, in half a century, introduce or discover 
all the artifices of language, period, style, heroic verse, stanza, so 
effectually, that a little later the most perfect versifiers, Dryden, and 
Pope himself, says Dr. Nott, will add scarce anything to the rules, 
invented or applied, which were employed in the earliest efforts.* Even 
Surrey is too near to these authors, too constrained in his models, not 
sufficiently free : he has not yet felt the great current of the age; we do 
not find in him a bold genius, an impassioned writer capable of wide 
expansion, but a courtier, a lover of elegance, who, penetrated by the 
beauties of two complete literatures, imitates Horace and the chosen 
masters of Italy, corrects and polishes little morsels, aims at speaking 
perfectly a fine language. Amongst semi-barbarians he wears a dress- 
coat becomingly. Yet he does not wear it completely at his ease: he 
keeps his eyes too exclusively on his models, and does not venture to 
permit himself frank and free gestures. He is still a scholar, makes 
too great use of hot and cold, wounds and martyrdom. Although a 
lover, and a genuine one, he thinks too much that he must be so in 
Petrarch’s manner, that his phrase must be balanced and his image 
kept up. I had almost said that, in his sonnets of disappointed love, 
he thinks less often of the strength of love than of the beauty of 
his writing. He has conceits,; ill-chosen words; he’ uses trite ex- 
pressions ; he relates how Nature, having formed his lady, broke the 
mould; he assigns parts to Cupid and Venus; he employs the old 
of the troubadours and the ancients, lke:s clever man who 
wishes to pass for a gallant. Scarce any mind dares be at first quite 
itself: when a new art arises, the first artist listens not to his heart, but 





1 The Frailty and Hurtfulness of Beauty. 
® Description of Spring. A Vow to love faithfully. 
3 Complaint of the Lover disdained, 
* Surrey, ed. Nott. 
L 


162 "THE RENAISSANCE. ~ [BooK It. 


to his masters, and asks himself at every step whether he be setting foot 
on solid ground, or whether he is not stumbling. 


IV. 


Insensibly the growth becomes complete, and at the end of the 
century all was changed. A new, strange, overloaded style had been 
formed, destined to remain in force until the Restoration, not only in 
poetry, but also in prose, even in ceremonial speech and theological 
discourse,’ so suitable to the spirit of the age, that we meet with it 
throughout Europe, in Ronsard and d’Aubigné, in Calderon, Gongora, 
and Marini, In 1580 appeared Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit, by Lyly, 
which was its text-book, its masterpiece, its caricature, and was received 
with universal admiration.? ‘Our nation,’ says Edward Blount, ‘are in 
his debt for a new English which hee taught them. All our ladies 
were then his scollers; and that beautie in court who could not parley 
Euphuesme was as little regarded as shee which now there speakes not 
French.’ The ladies knew the phrases of Euphues by heart: strange, 
studied, and refined phrases, enigmatical; whose author seems of set 
purpose to seek the least natural expressions and the most far-fetched, full 
of exaggeration and antithesis, in which mythological allusions, illustra- 
tions from alchemy, botanical and astronomical figures, all the rubbish and 
medley of learning, travels, mannerism, roll in a flood of conceits and 
comparisons. Do not judge it by the grotesque picture that Walter Scott 
drew of it. Sir Piercie Shafton is but a pedant, a cold and dull copyist ; it 
is its warmth and originality which give this style a true force and an 
accent of its own. You must conceive it, not as dead and inert, such 
as we have it to-day in old books, but springing from the lips of ladies 
and young lords in pearl-bedecked doublet, quickened by their vibrat- 
ing voices, their laughter, the flash of their eyes, the motion of their 


hands as they played with the hilt of their swords or with their satin - 
cloaks. They were witty, their heads full to overflowing; and they - 


amused themselves, as our sensitive and eager artists do, at their ease 
in the studio. They did not speak to convince or be understood, but 
to satisfy their excited imagination, to expend their overflowing wit.* 
They played with words, twisted, put them out of shape, rejoiced in 
sudden views, strong contrasts, which they produced one after another, 
ever and anon, in quick succession. They cast flower on flower, tinsel 
on tinsel; everything sparkling delighted them; they gilded and em- 
broidered and plumed their language like their garments. They cared 
nothing for clearness, order, common sense; it was a festival and a 





1 The Speaker’s address to Charles 11. on his restoration. Compare it with the 
speech of M. de Fontanes under the Empire. In each case it was the close of a 
literary epoch. Read for illustration the speech before the University of Oxford, 
Athena Oxonienses, i. 193. 

* His second work, Huphues and his England, appeared in 1581. 

* See Shakspeare’s young men, Mercntio especially... 











CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 163 


folly; absurdity pleased them. They knew nothing more tempting 
than a carnival of splendours and oddities; all was huddled together : 
@ coarse gaiety, a tender and sad word, a pastoral, a sounding flourish 
of unmeasured boasting, a gambol of a Jack-pudding. Eyes, ears, all 
the senses, curious and excited, are satisfied by the jingle of syllables, 
the display of fine high-coloured words, the unexpected concurrence of 
droll or familiar images, the majestic roll of balanced periods. Every 
one had his oaths, his elegances, his style. ‘One would say,’ remarks 
Heylyn, ‘that they are ashamed of their mother-tongue, and do not 
find it sufficiently varied to express the whims of their mind.’ We no 
longer imagine this inventiveness, this boldness of fancy, this ceaseless 
fertility of a nervous sensibility: there was no genuine prose; the 
poetic flood swallowed it up. A word was not an exact symbol, as 
with us; a document which from cabinet to cabinet carried a precise 
thought. It was part of a complete action, a little drama; when they 
read it, they did not take it by itself, but imagined it with the in- 
tonation of a hissing and shrill voice, with the puckering of the lips, 
the knitting of the brows, and the succession of pictures which crowd 
behind it, and which it calls forth in a flash of lightning. Each one 
mimics and pronounces it in his own style, and impresses his own 
soul upon it. It was a song, which, like the poet's verse, contains a 
thousand things besides the literal sense, and manifests the depth, 
warmth, and sparkling of the source whence it came. For in that 
time, even when the man was feeble, his work lived: there is some 
pulse in the least productions of this age; force and creative fire sig- 
nalise it; they penetrate through-bombast and affectation. Lyly him- 
self, so fantastic that he seems to write purposely in defiance of common 
sense, is at times a genuine poet, a singer, a man capable of rapture, 
akin to Spenser and Shakspeare; one of those introspective dreamers, 
who see dancing fairies, the purpled cheeks of goddesses, drunken, 
amorous woods, as he says: - 

* Adorned with the presence of my love, 

The woods I fear such secret power shall prove, 

As they'll shut up each path, hide every way, 

Because they still would have her go astray.’? 
The reader must assist me, and assist himself. I cannot otherwise give 
him to understand what the men of this age had the felicity to experience. 

Luxuriance and irregularity were the two features of this spirit 

and this literature,—features common to all the literatures of the Re- 
naissance, but more marked here than elsewhere, because the German 
race is not confined, like the Latin, by the taste for harmonious forms, 
and prefers strong impression to fine expression. We must select 
amidst this crowd of poets; and here is one amongst the first, who 
will exhibit, by his writings as well as by his life, the greatness and the 


1 The Maid her Metamorphosis. 





164 THE RENAISSANCE, [BOOK Il. 


folly of the prevailing manners and the public taste: Sir Philip Sidney, 


nephew of the Earl of Leicester, a great lord and a man of action, — 


accomplished in every kind of culture; who, after a good training in 
polite literature, travelled in France, Germany, and Italy; read Plato 
and Aristotle, studied astronomy and geometry at Venice; pondered 
over the Greek tragedies, the Italian sonnets, the pastorals of Monte- 


mayor, the poems of Ronsard; displaying an interest in science, keeping — 


up an exchange of letters with the learned Hubert Languet; and withal 
a man of the world, a favourite of Elizabeth, having had enacted in 
her honour a flattermg and comic pastoral; a genuine ‘ jewel of the 
Court ;’ a judge, like d’Urfé, of lofty gallantry and fine language ; 
above all, chivalrous in heart and deed, who had desired to follow 
maritime adventure with Drake, and, to crown all, fated to die an early 
and heroic death. He was a cavalry officer, and had saved the English 
army at Gravelines. Shortly after, mortally wounded, and dying of 
thirst, as some water was brought to him, he saw by his side a soldier 
still more desperately hurt, who was looking at the water with anguish 
in his face: ‘ Give it to this man,’ said he; ‘his necessity is yet greater 
than mine.’ Do not forget the vehemence and impetuosity of the 
middle-age ;—one hand ready for action, and kept incessantly on the hilt 
of the sword or poniard. ‘Mr. Molineux,’ wrote he to his father’s secre- 
tary, ‘if ever I know you to do as much as read any letter I write to 
my father, without his commandment or my consent, I will thrust my 
dagger into you. And trust to it, for I speak in earnest.’ It was the 
same man who said to his uncle’s adversaries that they ‘lied in their 
/ throat ;’ and to support his words, promised them a meeting in three 
' months in any place in Europe. The savage energy of the preceding 
| age remains intact, and it is for this reason that poetry took so firm a 
hold on these virgin souls. The human harvest is never so fine as 


when cultivation opens up a new soil, Impassioned to an extreme, - 


melancholy and solitary, he naturally turned to noble and ardent 
fantasy ; and he was so much the poet, as to be so beyond his verses. 
Shall I describe his pastoral epic, the Arcadia? It is but a recrea- 
tion, a sort of poetical romance, written in the country for the amuse- 
ment of his sister; a work of fashion, which, like Cyrus and Clélie,* 
is not a monument, but a relic. This kind of books shows only the 
externals, the current elegance and politeness, the jargon of the world 
of culture,—in short, that which should be spoken before ladies; and 
yet we perceive from it the bent of the general spirit. In Clélie, 
oratorical development, fine and collected analysis, the flowing converse 
of men seated quietly on elegant arm-chairs; in the Arcadia, fantastic 
imagination, excessive sentiments, a medley of events which suited 


men scarcely recovered from barbarism. Indeed, in London they still _ 





' Two French novels of the age of Louis xrv., each in ten volumes, and written 
by Mademoiselle de Scudéry. —Tr. 


4 
; 
a 


§ 





CHAP, 1.) THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 165 


used to fire pistols at each other in the streets; and under Henry vit 
and his children, queens, a Protector, the highest nobles, knelt under the 
axe of the executioner. Armed and perilous existence long resisted in 
Europe the establishment of peaceful and quiet life. It was n 
to change society and the soil, in order to transform men of the sword 
into citizens. The high roads of Louis x1v. and his regular admini- 
stration, and more recently the railroads and the sergents de ville, came 
to relieve the French from habits of violence and a taste for dangerous 
adventure. Remember that at this period men’s heads were full of 
tragical images. Sidney's Arcadia contains enough of them to supply 
half-a-dozen epics. ‘It is a trifle,’ says the author; ‘my young head 
must be delivered.’ In the first twenty-five pages you meet with a 
shipwreck, an account of pirates, a half-drowned prince rescued by 
shepherds, a voyage in Arcadia, various disguises, the retreat of a king 
withdrawn into solitude with his wife and children, the deliverance of a 
young imprisoned lord, a war against the Helots, the conclusion of 
peace, and many other things. Go on, and you will find princesses 
shut up by a wicked fairy, who beats them, and threatens them with 
death if they refuse to marry her son; a beautiful queen condemned 
to perish by fire if certain knights do not come to her succour; a 
treacherous prince tortured for his crimes, then cast from the top of a 
pyramid; fights, surprises, abductions, travels: in short, the whole pro- 
gramme of the most romantic tales. That is the serious element: the 
agreeable is of a like nature ; the fantastic predominates. Improbable 
pastoral serves, as in Shakspeare or Lope de Vega, for an intermezzo to 
improbable tragedy. You are always coming upon dancing shepherds. 
They are very courteous, good poets, and subtle metaphysicians. There 
are many disguised princes who pay their court to the princesses. 
They sing continually, and get up allegorical dances; two bands ap- 
proach, servants of Reason and Passion ; their hats, ribbons, and dress 
are described in full. They quarrel in verse, and their hurried retorts, 
_ which follow close on one another, over-refined, keep up a tournament 
of wit. Who cared for what was natural or possible in this age? 
_ There were such festivals at Elizabeth’s entries ; and you have only to 
look at the engravings of Sadler, Martin de Vos, and Goltzius, to find 
this mixture of sensuous beauties and philosophical enigmas. The 
Countess of Pembroke and her ladies were delighted to picture this 
profusion of costumes and verses, this play beneath the trees. They 
had eyes in the sixteenth century, senses which sought satisfaction in 
poetry—the same satisfaction as in masquerading and painting. Man 
was not yet a pure reasoner; abstract truth was not enough for him. 
Rich stuffs, twisted about and folded; the sun to shine upon them, 
a large meadow full of white daisies; ladies in brocaded dresses, with 
bare arms, crowns on their heads, instruments of music behind the 
trees,—this is what the reader expects; he cares nothing for contrasts ; 
he will readily provide a drawing-room in the midst of the fields, 


166 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK IL 


What are they going to say there? Here comes out that restless 
exaltation, amidst all its folly, which is characteristic of the spirit of the 
age; love rises to the thirty-sixth heaven. Musidorus is the brother of 
_ Céladon; Pamela is closely related to the severe heroines of Astrée ;* all 
the Spanish exaggerations abound with all their faults. But in works of 
fashion or of the Court, primitive sentiment never retains its sincerity: 
wit, the necessity to please, the desire of effect, of speaking better than 
others, alter it, force it, confuse the embellishments and refinements, so 
that nothing is left but twaddle. Musidorus wished to give Pamela a 
kiss. She repels him. He would have died on the spot; but luckily 
remembers that his mistress commanded him to leave her, and finds 
himself still able to obey her command. He complains to the trees, 
weeps in verse: there are dialogues where Echo, repeating the last 
word, replies; double rhymes, balanced stanzas, in which the theory 
of love is minutely detailed ; in short, all choice morsels of ornamental 
poetry. If they send a letter to their mistress, they speak to it, tell 
the ink: 

‘Therefore mourne boldly, my inke ; for while shee lookes upon you, your 
blacknesse will shine: cry out boldly my lamentation ; for while shee reades you, 
your cries will be musicke,’? 

Again, two young princesses are going to bed: 

‘They impoverished their clothes to enrich their bed, which for that night 
might well scorne the shrine of Venus; and there cherishing one another with 
deare, though chaste embracements ; with sweete, though cold kisses; it might 
seeme that love was come to play him there without dart, or that wearie of his 
owne fires, he was there to refresh himselfe between their sweete breathing lippes.’* 

In excuse of these follies, remember that they have their parallels 
in Shakspeare. Try rather to comprehend them, to imagine them in 
their place, with their surroundings, such as they are; that is, as the 


an 


excess of singularity and inventive fire. Even though they mar now 


and then the finest ideas, yet a natural freshness pierces through the 
disguise, Take another example: 


‘In the time that the morning did strew roses and violets in the heavenly 
floore against the coming of the sun, the nightingales (striving one with the other 
which could in most dainty varietie recount their wronge-caused sorrow) made 
them put off their sleep.’ 


In Sidney’s second work, The Defence of Poesie, we meet with genuine 
imagination, a sincere and serious tone, a grand, commanding style, all 
the passion and elevation which he carries in his heart and puts into his 
verse. He is a muser, a Platonist, who is penetrated by the ancient 
teaching, who takes things from a high point of view, who places the 
excellence of poetry not in pleasing effect, imitation or rhyme, but in 





1 Céladon, a rustic lover in Astrée, a French novel in five volumes, named after 
the heroine, and written by d’Urfé (d. 1625).—Tr. 
* Arcadia, ed. fol. 1629, p. 117. 3 Tbid. book ii. .p. 114 








CHAP. L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 167 


this creative and superior conception by which the artist dresses and 
embellishes nature. At the same time, he is an ardent man, trusting in 
the nobleness of his aspirations and in the width of his ideas, who scorns 
the brawling of the shoppy, narrow, vulgar Puritanism, and glows with 
the lofty irony, the proud freedom, of a poet and a lord. 

In his eyes, if there is any art or science capable of augmenting 
and cultivating our generosity, it is poetry. He draws comparison 
after comparison between it and philosophy or history, whose pre- 
tensions he laughs at and dismisses. He fights for poetry as a knight 
for his lady, and in what heroic and splendid style! He says: 


*I never heard the old Song of Percie and Douglas, that I found not my heart 
moved more than with a trumpet : and yet it is sung but by some blinde Crowder, 
with no rougher voyce, than rude stile ; which beeing so evill apparelled in the 
dust and Cobweb of that uncivill age, what would it work, trimmed in the gorgeous 
eloquence of Pindare ?"? 


The philosopher repels, the poet attracts : 

* Nay hee doth as if your journey should lye through a faire vineyard, at the 
very first, give you a cluster of grapes, that full of that tast, you may long to 
passe further.’* 


What description of poetry can displease you? Pastoral so easy 
and genial ? 

*Is itthe bitter but wholesome Iambicke, who rubbes the galled minde, making 
shame vaes Trumpet of villanie, with bold and open crying out against naughti- 
nesse $” 


At the close he reviews his arguments, and the vibrating martial 
accent of his poetical period is like a trump of victory : 

* So that since the excellencies of it (poetry) may bee so easily and so justly con- 
firmed, and the low-creeping objections so soone trodden downe, it not being an 
Art of lyes, but of true doctrine ; not of effeminatenesse, but of notable stirring of 
courage ; not of abusing man’s wit, but of strengthning man’s wit ; not banished, 
but honoured by Plato ; let us rather plant more Laurels for to ingarland the Poets 
heads than suffer the ill-savoured breath of such wrong speakers, once to blow upon 
the cleare springs of Poesie.’® 


From such vehemence and gravity you may anticipate what his 
verses will be. 
Often, after reading the poets of this age, I have looked for some 





1 The Defence of Poesie, ed. fol. 1629, p. 558: ‘I dare undertake, that Orlando 
Furioso, or honest King Arthur, will never displease a soldier: but the quidditie 
of Ens and prima materia, will hardly agree with a Corselet.’ See also, in these 
pages, the very lively and spirited personification of History and Philosophy. It 


contains genuine talent. 
* Ibid. p. 553. 3 Ibid. p. 550. * Ibid. p. 552. 
5 Ibid. p. 560. Here and there we find also verse as spirited as this: 
‘Or Pindar’s Apes, flaunt they in phrases fine, 


_ Enam'ling with pide flowers their thoughts of gold.'—(8d Sonnet.) 


- - ee eee al 
i. Pn a 
¢ WH 


as | 


168 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 11: 


time at the contemporary prints, telling myself that man, body and 
soul, was not then such as we see him to-day. We also have our 
passions, but we are no longer strong enough to bear them. They dis- 
tract us; we are not poets without suffering for it. Alfred de Musset, 
Heine, Edgar Poe, Burns, Byron, Shelley, Cowper, how many shall I 
instance? Disgust, mental and bodily degradation, disease, impotence, 
madness, suicide, at best a permanent hallucination or feverish raving,— 

these are now-a-days the ordinary issues of the poetic temperament. 
The passion of the brain gnaws our vitals, dries up the blood, eats into 
the marrow, shakes us like a tempest, and the skeleton man, to which 
civilisation has reduced us, is not substantial enough long to resist it. 
They, who have been more roughly trained, who are more inured to the 
inclemencies of climate, more hardened by bodily exercise, more firm 
against danger, endure and live. Is there a man living who could 
withstand the storm of passions and visions which swept over Shak- 
speare, and end, like him, as a sensible citizen and landed proprietor in 
his small county? The muscles were firmer, the despair less prompt. 
The rage of concentrated attention, the half hallucinations, the anguish 
and heaving of the heart, the quivering of the limbs stretching involun- 
tarily and blindly for action, all the painful impulses which accompany 
large desires, exhausted them less; this is why they desired longer, and 
dared more. D’Aubigné, wounded with many sword-thrusts, conceiv- 
ing death at hand, had himself bound on his horse that he might see 
his mistress once more, and rode thus several leagues, losing blood, and 
arriving inaswoon. Such feelings we glean still in their portraits, 
in the straight looks which pierce like a sword; in this strength of 
back, bent or twisted; in the sensuality, energy, enthusiasm, which 
breathe from their attitude or look. Such feelings we still discover in 
their poetry, in Greene, Lodge, Jonson, Spenser, Shakspeare, in Sidney, 
as in all the rest. We quickly forget the faults of taste which accom- 
pany it, the affectation, the uncouth jargon. Is it really so uncouth? 
Imagine a man who with closed eyes distinctly sees the adored counte- 
nance of his mistress, who keeps it before him all the day; who is 
troubled and shaken as he imagines ever and anon her brow, her lips, 
her eyes; who cannot and would not be separated from his vision; who 
sinks daily deeper in this passionate contemplation; who is every in- 
stant crushed by mortal anxieties, or transported by the raptures of 
bliss: he will lose the exact conception of objects. A fixed idea be- 
comes a false idea. By dint of regarding an object under all its forms, 
turning it over, piercing through it, we at last deform it. When we 
cannot think of a thing without dimness and tears, we magnify it, and 
give it a nature which it has not. Then strange comparisons, over- 
refined ideas, excessive images, become natural. However far Sidney 
goes, whatever object he touches, he sees throughout the universe only 
the name and features of Stella. All ideas bring him back to her. He is 
drawn ever and invincibly by the same thought; and comparisons which 


» 


«a 


a) 


4 


ee 





CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 169 


seem far-fetched, only express the unfailing presence and sovereign 
power of the besetting image. Stella is ill; it seems to Sidney that 
*‘ Joy, which is inseparate from those eyes, Stella, now learnes (strange 
case) to weepe in thee.’ To us, the expression is absurd. Is it for 
Sidney, who for hours together had dwelt on the expression of those 
eyes, seeing in them at last all the beauties of heaven and earth, who, 
compared to them, finds all light dull and all joy stale? Consider that 
in every extreme passion ordinary laws are reversed, that our logic 
cannot pass judgment on it, that we find in it affectation, childishness, 
fancifulness, crudity, folly, and that to us violent conditions of the ner- 
vous machine are like an unknown and marvellous land, where common 
sense and good language cannot penetrate. On the return of spring, 
when May spreads over the fields her dappled dress of new flowers, 
Astrophel and Stella sit in the shade of a retired grove, in the warm 
air, full of birds’ voices and pleasant exhalations. Heaven smiles, the 
wind kisses the trembling leaves, the inclining trees interlace their sappy 
branches, amorous earth sighs greedily for the rippling water : 


* In a grove most rich of shade, 
Where birds wanton musicke made, 
May, then yong, his py’d weeds showing, 
New perfum’d with flowers fresh growing, 


* Astrophel with Stella sweet, 

* Did for mutuall comfort meet, 
Both within themselves oppressed, 
But each in the other blessed. . . . 


* Their eares hungry of each word, 
Which the deere tongue would afford, 
But their tongues restrain’d from walking, 
Till their hearts had ended talking. 


* But when their tongues could not speake, 
Love it selfe did silence breake ; 
Love did set his lips asunder, 
Thus to speake in love and wonder. . . . 


* This small winde which so sweet is, 
See how it the leaves doth kisse, 
Each tree in his best attyring, 
Sense of love to love inspiring.’* 


On his knees, with beating heart, oppressed, it seems to-him that his 
mistress is transformed : 


* Stella, soveraigne of my joy, . « « 
Stella, starre of heavenly fire, 
Stella, load-starre of desire, 





1 Astrophel and Stella, ed. fol. 1629, 101st sonnet, p. 613. 
4 Ibid, 8th song, p. 603. 


- 
= 


170 THE RENAISSANCE. 





Stella, in whose shining eyes 

Are the lights of Cupid’s skies. . . . 
Stella, whose voice when it speakes 
Senses all asunder breakes ; 

Stella, whose voice when it singeth, 
Angels to acquaintance bringeth.’? 


These cries of adoration are likea hymn. Every day he writes thoughts 
of love which agitate him, and in this long journal of a hundred pages 
we feel the inflamed breath swell each moment, A smile from his 
mistress, a curl lifted by the wind, a gesture,—all are events. He 
paints her in every attitude; he cannot see her too constantly. He 
talks to the birds, plants, winds, all nature. He brings the whole world 
to Stella’s feet. At the notion of a kiss he swoons: 


* Thinke of that most gratefull time 
When thy leaping heart will climbe, © 
In my lips to have his biding. 

There those roses for to kisse, 
Which doe breath a sugred blisse, 
Opening rubies, pearles dividing.’? 


* O joy, too high for my low stile to show: 
O blisse, fit for a nobler state then me: 
Envie, put out thine eyes, lest thou do see 

What Oceans of delight in me do flow. 

My friend, that oft saw through all maskes my wo, 
Come, come, and let me powre my selfe on thee ; 
Gone is the winter of my miserie, 

My spring appeares, O see what here doth grow, 

For Stella hath with words where faith doth shine, 
Of her high heart giv’n me the monarchie : 

I, I, O I may say that she is mine.’* 


J St 


——E eo 


There are Oriental splendours in the sparkling sonnet in which he asks 
why Stella’s cheeks have grown pale: 


* Where be those Roses gone, which sweetned so our eyes? 
Where those red cheekes, which oft with faire encrease doth frame ‘ 
The height of honour in the kindly badge of shame ? 

Who hath the crimson weeds stolne from my morning skies ?’* 


As he says, his ‘life melts with too much thinking.’ Exhausted by 
ecstasy, he pauses; then he flies from thought to thought, seeking a 
cure for his wound, like the Satyr whom he describes: 


* Prometheus, when first from heaven hie : 
He brought downe fire, ere then on earth not seene, | 
Fond of delight, a Satyr standing by, : 

Gave it a kisse, as it like sweet had beene. 





1 Astrophel and Stella, 8th song, p. 603. 2 Ibid. 10th song, p. 610, 
3 Ibid, sonnet 69, p. 555. * Ibid, sonnet 102, p. 614. 








CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 171 


* Feeling forthwith the other burning power, 
Wood with the smart with showts and shryking shrill, 
He sought his ease in river, field, and bower, 
But for the time his griefe went with him still.’? 


At last calm returned; and whilst this calm lasts, the lively, glowing 
spirit plays like a fiame on the surface of the deep brooding fire. His 
love-songs and word-portraits, delightful pagan and chivalric fancies, 
seem to be inspired by Petrarch or Plato. One feels the charm and 
liveliness under the seeming affectation : 


* Faire eyes, sweete lips, deare heart, that foolish I 
Could hope by Cupids helpe on you to pray ; 
Since to himselfe he doth your gifts apply, — 
As his maine force, choise sport, and easefull stray. 


* For when he will see who dare him gainsay, . 
Then with those eyes he lookes, lo by and by 
Each soule doth at Loves feet his weapons lay, 
Glad if for her he give them leave to die. 


* When he will play, then in her lips he is, 
Where blushing red, that Loves selfe them doth love, 
With either lip he doth the other kisse : / 
But when he will for quiets sake remove 
From all the world, her heart is then his rome, 
Where well he knowes, no man to him can come.’® 


Both heart and sense are captive here. If he finds the eyes of Stella 
more beautiful than anything in the world, he finds her soul more 
lovely than her body. He is a Platonist when he recounts how Virtue, 
wishing to be loved of men, took Stella’s form to enchant their eyes, 
and make them see the heaven which the inner sense reveals to heroic 
souls. We recognise in him that entire submission of heart, love turned 
inte a religion, perfect passion which asks only to grow, and which, like 
the piety of the mystics, finds itself too insignificant when it compares 
itself with the object loved: 


* My youth doth waste, my knowledge brings forth toyes, 
My wit doth strive those passions to defend, 

Which for reward spoyle it with vaine annoyes, 

I see my course to lose my selfe doth bend ; 

I see and yet no greater sorrow take, 

Than that I lose no more for Stella's sake.’* 


At last, like Socrates in the banquet, he turns his eyes to deathless 
beauty, heavenly brightness: 





1 Astrophel and Stella, p. 525: this sonnet is headed E. D, Wood, in his 
Athen. Oxon. i., says it was written by Sir Edward Dyer, Chancellor of the Most 
noble Order of the Garter.—Tr. 

2 Ibid. sonnet 43, p. 545. 3 Ibid. sennet 18, p. 573. 





in 
- 
rf Ss "Ee 


172 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK IL 


* Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust, 
And thou my minde aspire to higher things : 
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust : 
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings. .. . 
O take fast hold, let that light be thy guide, 
In this small course which birth drawes out to death.’! 


Divine love continues the earthly love ; he was imprisoned in this, and 
frees himself. By this nobility, these lofty aspirations, recognise one 
of those serious souls of which there are so many in the same climate 
and race. Spiritual instincts pierce through the dominant paganism, 
and ere they make Christians, make Platonists. 


Vv. 


Sidney was only a soldier in an army; there is a multitude about him, 
a multitude of poets. In fifty-two years, beyond the drama, two hundred 
and thirty-three are enumerated,” of whom forty have genius or talent: 
Breton, Donne, Drayton, Lodge, Greene, the two Fletchers, Beaumont, 
Spenser, Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, Marlowe, Wither, Warner, Davison, 
Carew, Suckling, Herrick ;—we should grow tired in counting them. 
There is a crop of them, and so there is at the same time in Catholic and 
heroic Spain; and as in Spain, it was a sign of the times, the mark of a 
public want, the index to an extraordinary and transient condition of 
the mind. What is this condition which gives rise to so universal a 
taste for poetry? What is it breathes life into their books? How 
happens it, that amongst the least, in spite of pedantries, awkwardnesses, 
in the rhyming chronicles or descriptive cyclopedias, we meet with 
brilliant pictures and genuine love-cries? How happens it, that when 
this generation was exhausted, true poetry ended in England, as true 
painting in Italy and Flanders? It was because an epoch of the mind 
came and passed away,—that, namely, of instinctive and creative con- 
ception. ‘These men had new senses, and no theories in their heads. 
Their emotions were not the same as ours. What is the sunrise to an 
ordinary man? A white smudge on the edge of the sky, between bosses 
of clouds, amid pieces of land, and bits of road, which he sees not be- 
cause he has seen thema hundred times. But for them, all things have a 
soul; I mean that they feel naturally, within themselves, the uprising 
and severance of the outlines, the power and contrast of tints, the sad 
or delicious sentiment, which breathes from this combination and union 
like a harmony oracry. How sorrowful is the sun, as he rises in a mist 
above the sad sea-furrows ; what an air of resignation in the old trees 
rustling in the night rain; what a feverish tumult in the mass of waves, 





1 Last sonnet, p. 539. 

* Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, i. Part 2, ch. 2, 8,4. Among 
these 233 poets the authors of isolated pieces are not reckoned, but only those who 
published or gathered their works together. 





————e Oe 


es 


Pe Ay 


ee ee 


CHAP. I.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 173 


whose dishevelled locks are twisted for ever on the surface of the abyss! 
But the great torch of heaven, the luminous god, emerges and shines; the 
tall, soft, pliant herbs, the evergreen meadows, the expanding roof of 
lofty oaks,—the whole English landscape, continually renewed and 
illumined by the flooding moisture, diffuses an inexhaustible freshness. 
These meadows, red and white with flowers, ever moist and ever young, 
slip off their veil of golden mist, and appear suddenly, timidly, like | 
beautiful virgins. Here is the cuckoo-flower, which springs up before 
the coming of the swallow. Drayton, in his Polyolbion, sings : 
‘Then from her burnisht gate the goodly glittring East 

Guilds every lofty top, which late the humorous night 

Bespangled had with pearle, to please the Mornings sight : 

On which the mirthfull Quires, with their clere open throats, 

Unto the joyfull Morne so straine their warbling notes, 

That Hills and Valleys ring, and even the ecchoing Ayre 

Seemes all compos’d of sounds, about them everywhere. . . . 

Thus sing away the Morne, untill the mounting Sunne, 

Through thick exhaled fogs, his golden head hath ranne, 

And through the twisted tops of our close Covert creeps, 

To kiss the gentle Shade, this while that sweetly sleeps.’ 


A step further, and you will find the old gods reappear. They re- 
appear, these living gods—these living gods mingled with things which 
you cannot help meeting as soon as you meet nature again. Shak- 
speare, in the Tempest, sings: 
* Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas 
Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats, and pease ; 
Thy turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep, 
And flat meads thatch’d with stover, them to keep ; 
Thy banks with pioned and twilled brims, 
Which spongy April at thy hest betrims, 
To make cold nymphs chaste crowns . . . 
Hail, many-colour’d messenger (Iris.) . . . 
Who with thy saffron wings upon my flowers 
Diffusest honey-drops, refreshing showers, 
And with each end of thy blue bow dost crown 
My bosky acres and my unshrubb’d down.’? 
In Cymbeline he says: 
‘ As gentle as zephyrs blowing below the violet, 
Not wagging his sweet head."* 
Greene, in Never too Late, says: 
‘ When Flora proud, in pomp of all her flowers, 
Sat bright and gay, 
And gloried in the dew of Iris’ showers, 
And did display 
Her mantle chequer'd all with gaudy green.’* 


1M. Sp ed. 1622, 13th song, p. 214. 
® Act iv. 1. 3 Act iv. 2, 


_* Greene’s Poems, ed. Bell, Zurymachus in Laudem Mirimida, p. 73. 








174 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II, 


In the same piece he speaks: 


* How oft have I descending Titan seen, 
His burning locks couch in the sea-queen’s lap, 
And beauteous Thetis his red body wrap 
In watery robes, as he her lord had been !"* 

So Spenser, in his Faérie Queene, sings : 
‘The ioyous day gan early to appeare ; 
* And fayre Aurora from the deawy bed 

Of aged Tithone gan herself to reare 
With rosy cheekes, for shame as blushing red: 
Her golden locks, for hast, were loosely shed 
About her eares, when Una her did marke 
Clymbe to her charet, all with flowers spred, 
From heven high to chace the chearelesse darke ; 
With mery note her lowd salutes the mounting larke.’? 


All the splendour and sweetness of this well-watered land; all the 
specialties, the opulence of its dissolving tints, of its variable sky, its 
luxuriant vegetation, assemble about the gods, who gave them their 
beautiful form. 

In the life of every man there are moments when, in presence of 
objects, he experiences a shock. This mass of ideas, of mangled recol- 
lections, of mutilated images, which lie hidden in all corners of his 
mind, are set in motion, organised, suddenly developed like a flower. 
He is enraptured ; he cannot help looking at and admiring the charm- 
ing creature which has just appeared; he wishes to see it still, and 
others like it, and dreams of nothing else. There are such moments 
in the life of nations, and this is one of them. They are happy in con- 
' templating beautiful things, and wish only that they should be the 
most beautiful possible. They are not preoccupied, as we are, with 
theories. They do not labour to express moral or philosophical ideas. 
They wish to enjoy through the imagination, through the eyes, like 
these Italian nobles, who, at the same time, were so captivated by fine 
colours and forms, that they covered with paintings not only their 
rooms and their churches, but the lids of their chests and the saddles 
of their horses. The rich and green sunny country; young, gaily- 
attired ladies, blooming with health and love; half-draped gods and 
goddesses, masterpieces and models of strength and grace,—these are 
the most lovely objects which man can contemplate, the most capable 
of satisfying his senses and his heart—of giving rise to smiles and to 
joy ; and these are the objects which occur in all the poets in a most 
wonderful abundance of songs, pastorals, sonnets, little fugitive pieces, 
so lively, delicate, easily unfolded, that we have never since had their 
equals. What though Venus and Cupid have lost their altars? Like 





1 Greene’s Poems, Melicertus’ description of his Mistress, p. 38. 
* Spenser’s Works, ed. Todd, 1863, The Faérie Queene, i. c. 11, st. 51. 








| 


es ees eee. eee 
. a! os ~~ 4 ”* , - 

















omar. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 175 


the contemporary painters of Italy, they willingly imagine a beautiful 
naked child, drawn on a chariot of gold through the limpid air; or a 
woman, redolent with youth, standing on the waves, which kiss her 
snowy feet. Harsh Ben Jonson is ravished with the scene. The 
disciplined battalion of his sturdy verses changes into a band of little 
graceful strophes, which trip as lightly as Raphael's children. He sees 
his lady approach, sitting on the chariot of Love, drawn by swans and 
doves. Love leads the car; she passes calm and smiling, and all 
hearts, charmed by her divine looks, wish no other joy than to see and 
serve her for ever. 


* See the chariot at hand here of Love, 
Wherein my lady rideth ! 
Each that draws is a swan or a dove, 
And well the car Love guideth. 
As she goes, all hearts do duty 
Unto her beauty ; 
And, enamour’d, do wish, so they might 
But enjoy such a sight, 
That they still were to run by her side, 
swords, through seas, whither she would ride, 
Do but look on her eyes, they do light 
All that Love’s world compriseth ! 
Do but look on her hair, it is bright 
As Love's star when it riseth! ... 
Have you seen but a bright lily grow, 
Before rude hands have touched it ? 
Have you marked but the fall o’ the snow, 
Before the soil hath smutched it ? 
Have you felt the wool of beaver ? 
Or swan’s down ever? 
Or have smelt o’ the bud o’ the brier ? 
Or the nard in the fire ? 
Or have tasted the bag of the bee ? 
O so white! O so soft! O so sweet is she !"* 


What more lively, more unlike measured and artificial mythology? 
Like Theocritus and Moschus, they play with their laughing gods, and 
their belief becomes a festival, One day, in an alcove of a wood, 
Cupid meets a nymph asleep: , 
* Her golden hair o’erspread her face, 

Her careless arms abroad were cast, 

Her quiver had her pillow’s place, 

Her breast lay bare to every blast.’* 
He approaches softly, steals her arrows, and puts his own in their 
place. She hears a noise at last, raises her reclining head, and sees a 





1 Ben Jonson's Poems, ed. R. Bell, Celebration of Oharis ; her Triumph, p. 125. 
* Cupid's Pastime, unknown author, ab. 1621. 


“ a baler? *- 2 on s ¥ 


176 ’ THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


shepherd approaching, She flees; he pursues. She strings her tow, 
and shoots her arrows at him. He only becomes more ardent, and is 
on the point of seizing her. In despair, she takes an arrow, and buries 
it in her lovely body. Lo! she is changed, she stops, smiles, loves, 
draws near him. 

* Though mountains meet not, lovers may. 

What other lovers do, did they. 
The god of Love sat on a tree, 
And aught that pleasant sight to see.’? 


A drop of malice falls into the medley of artlessness and voluptuous- 
ness ; it was so in Longus, and in all that delicious nosegay called the 
Anthology. Not the dry mocking of Voltaire, of folks who possessed only 
wit, and always lived in a drawing-room; but the raillery of artists, 
lovers whose brains are full of colour and form, who, when they recount 
a bit of roguishness, imagine a stooping neck, lowered eyes, the- blushing 
of vermilion cheeks. One of these fair ones says the following verses, 
simpering, and we can even see now the pouting of her lips: 


* Love in my bosom like a bee 
Doth suck his sweet. 
Now with his wings he plays with me, 
Now with his feet. 
Within my eyes he makes his rest, 
His bed amid my tender breast, 
My kisses are his daily feast. 
And yet he robs me of my rest. 
Ah! wanton, will ye!’? 


What relieves these sportive pieces is their splendour of imagination. 
There are effects and flashes which one hardly dare quote, dazzling 
and maddening, as in the Song of Songs: 


‘Her eyes, fair eyes, like to the purest lights 
That animate the sun, or cheer the day, 
In whom the shining sunbeams brightly play, 
Whiles fancy doth on them divine delights. 


Her cheeks like ripened lilies steeped in wine, 
Or fair pomegranate kernels washed ir _ ik, 
Or snow-white threads in nets of crimson silk, 
Or gorgeous clouds upon the sun’s decline. 


Her lips are roses over-washed with dew, 
Or like the purple of Narcissus’ flower. . . 


Her crystal chin like to the purest mould 
Enchased with dainty daisies soft and white, 
Where fancy’s fair pavilion once is pight, 
Whereas embraced his beauties he doth hold. 





 Oupid’s Pastime, unknown author, ab. 1621. 
* Rosalind’s Madrigal. 





wie J i? aki bt oS ee - — é = 


THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 177 


Her neck like to an ivory shining tower, 
Where through with azure veins sweet nectar runs, 
Or like the down of swans where Senesse woons, 
Or like delight that doth itself devour. 


Her paps are like fair apples in the prime, 
As round as orient pearls, as soft as down ; 
They never vail their fair through winter's frown, 
But from their sweets love sucked his summer time.’ ! 


* What need compare, where sweet sxceeda compare ? 
Who draws his thoughts of love from senseless things, 


Their pomp and greatest glories doth impair, 
And mounts love's heaven with overladen wings. * 


I can well believe that things had no more beauty then than now; 
but I am sure that men found them more beautiful. 

When the power of embellishment is so great, it is natural that they 
should paint the sentiment which unites all joys, whither all dreams 
converge, ideal love, and in particular, artless and happy love. Of all 
sentiments, there is none for which we have more sympathy. It is of 
all the most simple and sweet. It is the first motion of the heart, and 
the first word of nature. It is made up of innocence and self-abandon- 
ment, It is clear of reflections and effort. It extricates us from com- 
plicated passion, contempt, regret, hate, violent desires: It penetrates 
us, and we breathe it as the fresh breath of the morning wind, which 
has swept over flowery meads. They inhaled it, and were enraptured, 
the knights of this perilous court, and so rested in the contrast from 
their actions and their dangers. The most severe and tragic of their 
poets turned aside to meet it, Shakspeare among the evergreen oaks of 
the forest of Arden,* Ben Jonson in the woods of Sherwood,‘ amid 
the wide shady glades, the shining leaves and moist flowers, trembling 
on the margin of lonely springs. Marlowe himself, the terrible painter 
of the agony of Edward ., the impressive and ‘powerful poet, who 
wrote Faustus, Zamerlane, and the Jew of Malta, leaves his san 
dramas, his high-sounding verse, his images of fury, and nothing can 
be more musical and_sweet than his song. A shepherd, to gain his 
lady-love, says to h 

‘Come live with me and be my Love, 
And we will all the pleasures prove 
That hills and valleys, dale and field, 
And all the craggy mountains yield. 
There we will sit upon the rocks, 

And see the shepherds feed their flocks, 








1 Greene’s Poems, ed. R. Bell, Menaphon's Eelogue, p. 41. 

* Ibid. Melicertus’ Eclogue, p. 43. 

3 As you Like it. . 

4 The Sad Shepherd. See also Beaumont and Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess. 
M 


178 . THE RENAISSANCE. ~ 


By shallow rivers, to whose falls ~ 
Melodious birds sing madrigals. 

There | will make thee beds of roses, 
And a thousand fragrant posies ; 

A cap of flowers and a kirtle, 
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle. 

A gown made of the finest wool, 

Which from our pretty lambs we pull ; 
Fair lined slippers for the cold, 

With buckles of the purest gold. 

A belt of straw and ivy buds, 

With coral clasps and amber studs: 

And if these pleasures may thee move, 
Come live with me and be my Love... . 
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing, 
For thy delight each May-morning: 

If these delights thy mind may move, 
Then live with me and be my Love.’! 


‘The unpolished. gentlemen of the period, returning from a falcon 
hunt, were more than once arrested by such a rustic picture; such as 
they were, that is to say, imaginative and not very citizen-like, they 


had dreamed of figuring in them on their own account. But while ~ 


entering into, they reconstructed them; in their parks, prepared for 
the queen’s entrance, with a profusion of costumes and devices, not 
troubling themselves to copy rough nature exactly. Improbability did 
not disturb them; they were not minute imitators, students of manners: 
they created; the country for them was but a setting, and the complete 
picture came from their fancies and their hearts. Romantic it may 
have been, even impossible, but it was on this account the more charm- 
ing. Is there a greater charm than putting on one side this actual 
world which fetters or oppresses us, to float vaguely and easily in the 
azure and the light, on the summit of the land of fairies and clouds, 
to arrange things according to the pleasure of the moment, no longer 
feeling the oppressive laws, the harsh and resisting framework of life, 
adorning and varying everything after the caprice and the refinements 
of fancy? That is what is done in these little poems. Usually the 
events are such as happen nowhere, or happen in the land where kings 
turn shepherds and marry shepherdesses. - The beautiful Argentile* is 
detained at her uncle’s court, who wishes to deprive her of her kingdom, 





? This poem was, and still is, frequently attributed to Shakspeare. It appears 
as his in Knight’s edition, published a few years ago. Isaac Walton, however, 
writing about fifty years after Marlowe’s death, attributes it to him. In Pal- 
grave’s Golden Treasury it is also ascribed to the same author, As a confirma- 
tion, let us state that Ithamore, in Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, says to the courtesan 
(Act iv. Sc. 4): ‘ Thou in those groves, by Dis above, 

Shalt live with me, and be my love.’—Tr. 

* Chalmers’ English Poets, William Warner, Fourth Book of Albion's England, 

ch, xx. p. 551. 





eh) al ee ae es ee a 


’ 


CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 179 


al “ 


and commands her to marry Curan, a boor in his service; she flees, 
and Curan in despair goes and lives two years among the shepherds, 
One day he meets a beautiful country-woman, and loves her; while 
speaking to her he thinks of Argentile, and weeps; he describes her 
sweet face, her lithe figure, her blue-veined delicate wrists, and 
suddenly sees that the peasant girl is weeping. She falls into his 
arms, and says, ‘I am Argentile.’ Now Curan was a king’s son, who 
had disguised himself thus for love of Argentile. He resumes his. 
armour, and defeats the wicked king. There was never a braver 
knight; and they both reigned long in Northumberland. From a 
hundred such tales, tales of the spring-time, the reader will perhaps 
bear with me while I pick out one more, gay and simple as a May 
morning. The Princess Dowsabel came down one morning into her 
father’s garden: she gathers honeysuckles, primroses, violets, and 
daisies; then, behind a hedge, she heard a shepherd singing, and that 
so finely that she loved him at once. He promises to be faithful, and 
asks for a kiss. Her cheeks became as crimson as a rose: 

* With that she bent her snow-white knee, 

Down by the shepherd kneeled she, 

And him she sweetly kiss'd. 
With that the shepherd whoop’d for joy ; 
Quoth he: ‘‘ There’s never shepherd boy 
That ever was so blest,”"} 


_ Nothing more; is it not enough? It is but a moment's fancy; but 
__ they had such fancies every moment. Think what poetry was likely to 
_ Spring from them, how superior to common events, how free from 
literal imitation, how smitten with ideal beauty, how capable of creating 
a world beyond our sad world. In fact, among all these poems there 
_ is one truly divine, so divine that the reasoners of succeeding ages 
have found it wearisome, that even now but few understand it— 
Spenser’s Faérie Queene. 

One day Monsieur Jourdain, having turned Mamamouchi* and 
learned orthography, sent for the most illustrious writers of the age. 
He settled himself in his arm-chair, pointed with his finger at several 

folding-stools for them to sit down, and said: 
I have read your little productions, gentlemen. They have 
' afforded me much pleasure. I wish to give you some work todo. I 
have given some lately to little Lulli,* your fellow-labourer. It was 
_ @t my command that he introduced the sea-shell at his concerts,—a 
_ melodious instrument, which no one knew of before, and which has 
_ such a pleasing effect. I insist that you will work out my ideas as he 


ae 


ie 











_ ' Chalmers’ English Poets, M. Drayton's Fourth Eelogue, iv. p. 436. 

‘= | Mons, Jourdain is the hero of Molidre’s comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, 
1 ~—s the type of a vulgar and successful upstart ; Mamamouchi is a mock dignity.—Tr. 
+ + Lalli, a celebrated Italian composer of the time of Molitre. —Tx. 


si =e y 
4 ale 
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ye 
ras 

ea 

‘ 

~ 


180 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK Il. 


has worked them out, and I give you an order for a poem in prose. 


What is not prose, you know, is verse; and what is not verse, is prose. 


When I say, “ Nicolle, bring me my slippers and give me my night- 
cap,” I speak prose. Take this sentence as your model. This style is 
much more pleasing than the jargon of unfinished lines which you call 
verse. As for the subject, let it be myself. You will describe my 
flowered dressing-gown which I have put on to receive you in, and 
this little green velvet undress which I wear underneath, to do my 
morning exercise in. You will set down that this chintz costs a louis 
an-ell. The description, if well worked out, will furnish some very 
pretty paragraphs, and will enlighten the public as to the cost of things. 
I desire also that you should speak of my mirrors, my carpets, my 
hangings. My tradesmen will let you have their bills; don’t fail to 
put them in. I shall be glad to read in your works, all fully and 
naturally set forth, about my father’s shop, who, like a real gentleman, 
sold cloth to oblige his friends; my maid Nicolle’s kitchen, the genteel 
behaviour of Brusquet, the little dog of my neighbour M. Dimanche. 
You might also explain my domestic affairs: there is nothing more 
interesting to the public than to hear how a million may be scraped 
together. Tell them also that my daughter Lucile has not married 
that little rascal Cléonte, but M. Samuel Bernard, who made his fortune 
as a fermier-général, keeps his carriage, and is going to be a minister of 
state. For this I will pay you liberally, half a louis for a yard of 
writing. Come back in a month, and let me see what my ideas have 
suggested to you.’ 

We are the descendants of M. Jourdain, and this is how we have 
been talking to the men of talent from the beginning of the century, 
and the men of talent have listened to us. Hence arise our shoppy 
and realistic novels. I pray the reader to forget them, to forget him- 


self, to become for a while a poet, a gentleman, a man of the sixteenth — 


century. Unless we bury the M. Jourdain who survives in us, we 
shall never understand Spenser. 


VI. 


Spenser belonged to an ancient family, allied to great houses; was a 
friend of Sidney and Raleigh, the two most accomplished knights of 
the age—a knight himself, at least in heart; who had found in his 
connections, his friendships, his studies, his life, everything calculated 
to lead him to ideal poetry. We find him at Cambridge, where he 
imbues himself with the noblest ancient philosophies; in a northern 
country, where he passes through a deep and unfortunate passion ; at 
Penshurst, in the castle and in the society where the Arcadia was pro- 
duced; with Sidney, in whom survived entire the romantic poetry 
and heroic generosity of the feudal spirit; at court, where all the 
splendours of a disciplined and gorgeous chivalry were gathered about 
the throne; finally, at Kilcolman, on the borders of a beautiful lake, 


© al nl Digi 


CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 181 


in a lonely castle, from which the view embraced an amphitheatre 
of mountains, and the half of Ireland. Poor on the other hand, not 
fit for court, and though favoured by the queen, unable to obtain 
from his patrons anything but inferior employment ; in the end, tired 
of solicitations, and banished to dangerous Ireland, whence a revolt 
expelled him, after his house and child had been burned; he died 
three months later, of misery and a broken heart.!. Expectations and 
rebuffs, many sorrows and many dreams, some few joys, and a sudden 
and frightful calamity, a small fortune and a premature end; this 
indeed was a poet's life, But the heart within was the true poet— 
from it all proceeded ; circumstances furnished the subject only; he 
transformed them more than they him; he received less than he gave. 
Philosophy and landscapes, ceremonies and ornaments, splendours 
of the country and the court, on all which he painted or thought, he 
impressed his inward nobleness. Before ail, his was a soul captivated 
by sublime and chaste beauty, eminently platonic; one of these lofty 
and refined souls most charming of all, who, born in the lap of nature, 
draw thence their mother’s milk, but soar above, enter the regions of 
mysticism, and mount instinctively in order to open at the confines of 
another world. Spenser leads us to Milton, and thence to Puritanism, 
as Plato to Virgil, and thence to Christianity. Sensuous beauty is 
perfect in both, but their main worship is for moral beauty. He 
appeals to the Muses: 


* Revele to me the sacred noursery 
Of vertue, which with you doth there remaine, 
Where it in silver bowre does hidden ly 
From view of men and wicked worlds disdaine!’ 


He encourages his knight when he sees him droop. He is wroth 
when he sees him attacked. He rejoiges in his justice, temperance, 
courtesy. He introduces in the beginning of a song, stanzas in 
honour of friendship and justice. He pauses, after relating a lovely 
instance of chastity, to exhort women to modesty. He pours out the 


wealth of his respect and tenderness at his heroine's feet. If any 


coarse man insults them, he calls to their aid nature and the gods. 
_ Never does he bring them on his stage without adorning their name 


2 with splendid eulogy. He has an adoration for beauty worthy of 


Dante and Plotinus. And this, because he never considers it a mere 


_ harmony of colour and form, but an emanation of unique, heavenly, 


imperishable beauty, which no mortal eye can see, and which is the 
prime work of the great Author of the worlds,* Bodies only render 
it sensible; it does not live in the bodies; grace and attraction are 





1*He died for want of bread, in King Street.’ Ben Jonson, quoted by 
2 Hymns of Love and Beauty ; of heavenly Love and Beauty. 





182 THE RENAISSANCE. 





not in things, but in the deathless idea which shines through the 
things: : 
‘ For that same goodly hew of white and red, 
With which the cheekes are sprinckled, shall decay, 
And those sweete rosy leaves, so fairly spred 
Upon the lips, shall fade and fall away 
To that they were, even to corrupted clay : 
That golden wyre, those sparckling stars so bright, 
Shall turne to dust, and lose their goodly light. 
But that faire lampe, from whose celestiall ray 
That light proceedes, which kindleth lovers fire, 
Shall never be extinguisht nor decay ; 
But, when the vitall spirits doe expyre, 
Upon her native planet shall retyre ; 
For it is heavenly borne, and cannot die, 
Being a parcell of the purest skie.”? 


In presence of this ideal of beauty, love is transformed : 


* For Love is lord of Truth and Loialtie, 
Lifting himself out of the lowly dust, 
On golden plumes up to the purest skie, 
Above the reach of loathly sinfull lust, 
Whose base affect through cowardly distrust 
Of his weake wings dare not to heaven fly, 
But like a moldwarpe in the earth doth ly.’? 


Love such as this contains all that is good, and fine, and noble. It 
is the prime source of life, and of the eternal soul of things. It is 
this love which, pacifying the primitive discord, has created the har- 
mony of the spheres, and maintains this glorious universe, It dwells 
in God, and is God Himself, descended in bodily form to regenerate 
the tottering world and save the human race; around and within © 
animated beings, when our eyes can pierce it, we behold it as a 
living light, penetrating and embracing every creature. We touch 
here the sublime sharp summit where the world of mind and the 
world of senses unite; where man, gathering with both hands the 
loveliest flowers of either, feels himself at the same time a pagan and a 
Christian. 

So much, as a testimony to his heart. But he was also a poet, 
that is, pre-eminently a creator and a dreamer, and that most natu- 
rally, instinctively, unceasingly. We might go on for ever describing 
this inward condition of all great artists; there would still remain 
much to be described. It is a sort of spiritual growth with them; 
at every instant a bud shoots forth, and on this another, and still 





' A Hymne in Honour of Beautie, v. 92-105. 
* A Hymne in Honour of Love, v. 176-182. 





ey ee ee 
7, 4 



































CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 183 


another; each producing, increasing, blooming of itself, so that in- 
stantaneously we find first a plant, then a thicket, then a forest. 
A character appears to them, then an action, then a landscape, then 
a succession of actions, characters, landscapes, producing, completing, 
arranging themselves by instinctive development, as when in a dream 
we behold a train of figures which spread out and group themselves 
before our eyes. This fount of living and changing forms is in- 
exhaustible in Spenser; he is always imaging; it is his specialty. 
He has but to close his eyes, and apparitions arise; they abound in 
him, crowd, overflow ; in vain he pours them forth; they continually 
float up, more copious and more dense. Many times, following the 
inexhaustible stream, I have thonght of the vapours which rise in- 
cessantly from the sea, ascend, sparkle, commingle their gold and 
snowy scrolls, while beneath them new mists arise, and others again 
beneath, and the splendid procession never grows dim or ceases. 

But what distinguishes him from all others is the mode of his 
imagination. Generally with a poet his spirit ferments vehemently 
and by fits and starts; his ideas gather, jostle each other, suddenly 
appear in masses and heaps, and burst out in sharp, piercing, con- 
centrative words; it seems that they need these sudden accumulations 
to imitate the unity and life-like energy of the objects which ys 
reproduce; at least almost all the surrounding poets, Shakspeare at 
their head, act thus. Spenser remains calm in the fervour of inven-| 
tion. The visions which would be fever to another, leave him at peace. 
They come and spread before him, easily, entire, uninterrupted, with- 
out starts. He is epic, that is, a narrator, and not a singer like an 
ode-writer, nor a mimic like a play-writer. No modern is more like 
Homer. Like Homer and the great epic-writers, he presents consecu- 
tive and noble, almost classical images, so nearly ideas, that the mind 
seizes them unaided and unawares. Like Homer, he is always simple 
and clear: he makes no leap, he omits no argument, he robs no word 
of its primitive and ordinary sense, he preserves the natural sequence 
of ideas. Like Homer again, he is redundant, ingenuous, even childish. 
He says everything, he puts down reflections which we have made 
beforehand; he repeats without limit his ornamental epithets. We 
can see that he bebholds objects in a beautiful uniform light, with 
infinite detail; that he wishes to show all this detail, never fearing 
to see his happy dream change or disappear; that he traces its outline 
with a regular movement, never hurrying or slackening. He is even 
a little prolix, too unmindful of the public, too ready to lose himself 
and fall into a dream. His thought expands in vast repeated com- 
parisons, like those of the old Ionic pget. If a wounded giant falls, he 
finds him 


* As an aged tree, 
High growing on the top of rocky clift, 
Whose hart-strings with keene steele nigh hewen be, 


184 ‘THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


The mightie trunck halfe rent with ragged Tift, 
Doth roll adowne the rocks, and fall with fearefull drift. 


Or as a castle, reared high and round, 
By subtile engins and malitious slight 
1s undermined from the lowest ground, 
And her foundation forst, and feebled quight, 
At last downe falles ; and with her heaped hight 
Her hastie ruine does more heavie make, 
And yields it selfe unto the victours might : 
Such was this Gyaunt’s fall, that seemd to shake 
The stedfast globe of earth, as it for feare did quake. ! 


He dadione all the ideas which he handles. He stretches all his 
phrases into periods. Instead of compressing, he expands. To bear 
this ample thought and its accompanying train, he requires a long 
stanza, ever renewed, long recurring lines, reiterated rhymes, whose 


uniformity and fulness recall majestic sounds which undulate eternally - 


through the woods and the fields. To expand these epic faculties, and 
to expand them in the sublime region where his soul is naturally borne, 
he requires an ideal stage, situated beyond the bounds of: reality, 
with personages who could hardly exist, and in a world which could 
never be. 

He made many miscellaneous attempts in sonnets, elegies, pastorals, 
hymns of love, little sparkling word pictures;? they were but essays, 
incapable for the most part of supporting his genius. Yet already his 
magnificent imagination appeared in them; gods, men, landscapes, the 
world which he sets in mction is a thousand miles from that in which 
we live. His Shepherd's Calendar* is a pensive and tender pastoral, 
full of delicate loves, noble sorrows, lofty ideas, where no voice is heard 
but of thinkers and poets. His Visions of Petrarch and Du Bellay are 
admirable dreams, in which palaces, temples of gold, splendid land- 
scapes, sparkling rivers, marvellous birds, appear alternately as in an 
Oriental fairy-tale. If he sings a ‘ Prothalamion,’ he sees two beautiful 
swans, white as snow, who glide to the songs of nymphs amid vermeil 
roses, while the transparent water kisses their silken feathers, and mur- 
murs with joy: 

‘ There, in a meadow, by the river’s side, 

A flocke of Nymphes I chaunced to espy, 

All lovely daughters of the Flood thereby, 

With goodly greenish locks, all loose untyde, 

As each had bene a bryde ; 

And each one had a little wicker basket, 

Made of fine twigs, entrayled curiously, 

In which they gathered flowers to fill their flasket, 





' The Faérie Queene, i. c. 8, st. 22, 23. 

? The Shepherd's Calendar, Amoretti, Sonnets, Prothalamion, Epithalamion, 
Auiopotmos, Virgil's Gnat, The Ruines of Time, The Teares of the Muses, etc. 

® Published in 1589 ; dedicated to Philip Sidney. 





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Pees a es eee 


 OHAP.L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 185 


_ And with fine fingers cropt full feateously 

The tender stalkes on hye. 

Of every sort, which in that meadow grew, 
They gathered some ; the violet, pallid blew, 
The little dazie, that at evening closes, 

The virgin lillie, and the primrose trew, 

With store of vermeil roses, 

To deck their bridegroomes posies 

Against the brydale-day, which was not long: 

Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song. 


With that I saw two Swannes of goodly hewe 

Come softly swimming downe along the lee ; 

Two fairer birds I yet did never see ; 

The snow, which doth the top of Pindus strew, 

Did never whiter shew... 

So purely white they were, 

That even the gentle stream, the which them bare, 

Seem'd foule to them, and bad his billowes spare 

To wet their silken feathers, least they might 

Soyle their fayre plumes with water not so fayre, 

And marre their beauties bright, 

That shone as heavens light, 

Against their brydale day, which was not long: 
Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song !’* 


If he bewails the death of Sidney, Sidney becomes a shepherd ; he is 
slain like Adonis; around him gather weeping nymphs: 
* The gods, which all things see, this same beheld, 
And, pittying this paire of lovers trew, 
Transformed them there lying on the field, 

Into one flowre that is both red and blew : 

It first growes red, and then to blew doth fade, 
Like Astrophel, which thereinto was made. 

And in the midst thereof a star appeares, 

As fairly formd as any star in skyes: 
Resembling Stella in her freshest yeares, 

Forth darting beames of beautie from her eyes ; 
And all the day it standeth full of deow, 
Which is the teares, that from her eyes did flow.’* 


His most genuine sentiments become thus fairy-like. Magic is the 
mould of his mind, and impresses its shape on all that he imagines or 
thinks. Involuntarily he robs objects of their ordinary form. If he 

_ looks at a landscape, after an instant he sees it quite differently. He 
carries it, without knowing it, into an enchanted land; the azure 
heaven sparkles like a vault of diamonds, meadows are clothed with 
flowers, a biped population flutters in the sweet air, palaces of jasper 


4 Prothalamion, v. 19-54. § Astrophel, v. 181-192. 











186 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


shine among the trees, radiant ladies appear on carved balconies 
above galleries of emerald. This insensible toil of mind is like the slow 
crystallisations of nature. A moist twig is cast into the bottom of a 
mine, and is brought out again a hoop of diamonds. 

At last he finds a subject which suits him, the greatest joy per- 
mitted to an artist. He removes his epic from the common ground 
which, in the hands of Homer and Dante, gave expression to a living 
creed, and depicted national heroes. He leads us to the summit 
of fairy-land, on that extreme verge where objects vanish and pure 
idealism begins: 

‘I have undertaken a work,’ he says, ‘to represent all the moral vertues, assign- 
ing to every vertue a knight to be the patron and defender of the same: in whose 
actions and feats of armes and chivalry the operations of that vertue, whereof he 
is the protector, are to be expressed, and the vices and unruly appetites that 
oppose themselves against the same, to be beaten downe and overcome.’! 


In fact, he gives us an allegory as the foundation of his poem, not that 
he dreams of becoming a wit, a preacher of moralities, a propounder of 
riddles. He does not subordinate image to idea; he is a seer, nota 
philosopher. They are living men and actions which he sets in motion; 
only from time to time, enchanted palaces, a whole train of splendid 
visions trembles and divides like a mist, enabling us to catch a glimpse 
of the thought which raised and arranged it. When in his Garden of 
Venus we see the countless forms of all living things arranged in due 
order, in close compass, awaiting life, we conceive with him the birth 
of universal love, the ceaseless fertility of the great mother, the mys- 
terious swarm of creatures which rise in succession from her far-reach- 
ing womb. When we see his Knight of the Cross, combating with a 
monstrous woman-serpent in defence of his beloved lady Una, we 
dimly remember that, if we search beyond these two figures, we shall 
find behind one, Truth, behind the other, Falsehood. We perceive that 
his characters are not flesh and blood, and that all these brilliant phan- 
toms are phantoms, and nothing more. We take pleasure in their 
brilliancy, without believing in their substantiality; we are interested 
in their acts, without troubling ourselves about their misfortunes. We 
know that their tears and cries are not real. Our emotion is purified and 
raised. We do not fall into gross illusion; we have that gentle feeling 
of knowing ourselves to be dreaming. We, like him, are a thousand 
leagues from actual life, beyond the pangs of painful pity, unmixed 
terror, urgent and bitter hatred. We entertain only refined senti- 
ments, half defined, arrested at the moment that they were about to 
affect us with too sharp a stroke. They slightly touch us, and we find 
ourselves happy in being extricated from a belief which was beginning 
to be oppressive. 





? Words attributed to him by Lodowick Bryskett, Discourse of Civit Life, ed. 
1606, p. 26. 








i ie le i 





CHAP, L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 187 


What world could furnish materials to so elevated a fancy? One 
only, that of chivalry; for none is so far from the actual. Alone and 
independent in his castle, freed from all the ties which society, family, 
toil, usually impose on the actions of men, the feudal hero had attempted 
every kind of adventure, but yet he had done less than he imagined: 
the boldness of his deeds had been exceeded by the madness of his 
dreams. For want of useful employment and an accepted rule, his 
brain had laboured on an unreasoning and impossible track, and the 
urgency of his wearisomeness had increased beyond measure his craving 
for excitement. Under this stimulus his poetry had become a world 
of imagery. Insensibly strange conceptions had grown and multiplied 
in his brains, one over the other, like ivy woven round a tree, and 
the original stock had disappeared beneath their rank growth and their 
obstruction. The delicate fancies of the old Welsh poetry, the grand 
ruins of the German epics, the marvellous splendours of the conquered 
East, all the relics which four centuries of adventure had dispersed 
among the minds of men, had become gathered into one great dream ; 
and giants, dwarfs, monsters, the whole medley of imaginary creatures, 
of superhuman exploits and splendid follies, were grouped about a 
unique conception, exalted and sublime love, like courtiers prostrated 
at the feet of their king. It was an ample and an elastic subject-matter, 
from which the great artists of the age, Ariosto, Tasso, Cervantes, 
Rabelais, had hewn their poems, But they belonged too completely to 
their own time, to admit of their belonging to one which had passed. 
They created a chivalry afresh, but it was not genuine. The ingenious 
Ariosto, an ironical epicurean, delights his gaze with it, and grows merry 
over it, like a man of pleasure, a sceptic who rejoices doubly in his 
pleasure, because it is sweet, and because it is forbidden. By his side ~ 
poor Tasso, inspired by a fanatical, revived, factitious Catholicism, amid 
the tinsel of an old school of poetry, works on the same subject, in 
sickly fashion, with great effort and scant success, Cervantes, himself 
a knight, albeit he loves chivalry for its nobleness, perceives its folly, 
and crushes it to the ground, with heavy blows, in the mishaps of the 
wayside inns." More coarsely, more openly, Rabelais, a rude commoner, 
drowns it with a burst of laughter in his merriment and nastiness. 
Spenser alone takes it seriously and naturally. He is on the level of 
so much nobleness, dignity, reverie. He is not yet settled and shut in 
by that species of exact common sense which was to found and cramp 
the whole modern civilisation. In his heart he inhabits the poetic and 
misty land from which men were daily drawing further and further 
away. He is enamoured of it, even to its very language; he retains 





1 ‘Cervantes smiled Spain's chivalry away.’—Bynon’s Don Juan, canto xiii, 
at. xi.—Tr. 


’ = 3s * . 5 «ot i“ 
a . ‘ 

. x 4 

- 


188 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II, 


the old words, the expressions of the middle-age, the style of Chaucer, 
especially in the Shepherds Calendar. He enters straightway upon the 
strangest dreams of the old story-tellers, without astonishment, like a 
man who has still stranger ones on his own account. Enchanted castles, 
monsters and giants, duels in the woods, wandering ladies, all spring 
up under his hands, the medieval fancy with the medieval generosity ; 
and it is just because this world is unlifelike that this world suits his 
humour. 

Is there in chivalry sufficient to furnish him with matter? That 
is but one world, and he has another. Beyond the valiant men, the 
glorified images of moral virtues, he has the gods, finished models of 
sensible beauty; beyond Christian chivalry he has the pagan Olympus ; 
beyond the idea of heroic will, which can only be satisfied by adven- 
tures and danger, he has the idea of calm energy, which is found in 
itself to be in harmony with actual existence. For such a poet there is 
not enough in one ideal; beside the beauty of effort he places the 
beauty of happiness; he couples them, not with the preconception of a 
philosopher, nor the design of a scholar like Goethe, but because they 
are both lovely; and here and there, amid weapons and passages of 
arms, he distributes satyrs, nymphs, Diana, Venus, like Greek statues 
amid the turrets and lofty trees of an English park. There is nothing 
forced in the union; the ideal epic, like a heaven above them, unites 
and harmonises the two worlds; a beautiful pagan dream carries on a 
beautiful dream of chivalry; the link consists in the fact that they are 
both beautiful. At this elevation the poet has ceased to observe the 
differences of races and civilisations. He can introduce into his picture 
whatever he will; his only reason is, ‘That suited;’ and there could 
be no better. Under the glossy-leaved oaks, by the old trunk so deeply 
rooted in the ground, he can see two knights cleaving each other, and 
the next instant a company of Fauns who came there to dance. The 
beams of light which have poured down upon the velvet moss, the wet 
turf of an English forest, can reveal the dishevelled locks and white 
shoulders of nymphs. Have you not seen it in Rubens? And what 
signify discrepancies in the happy and sublime illusion of a fancy? 
Are there more discrepancies? Who perceives them, who feels them? 
Who feels not, on the contrary, that to speak truth, there is but one 
world, that of Plato and the poets; that actual phenomena are but out- 
lines—mutilated, incomplete, and blurred outlines—wretched abortions 
scattered here and there on Time’s track, like fragments of clay, half 
moulded, then cast aside, lying in an artist’s studio; that, after all, in- 
visible forces and ideas, which for ever renew the actual existences, 
attain their fulfilment only in imaginary existences; and that the poet, 
in order to express nature in its entirety, is obliged to embrace in his 
sympathy all the ideal forms by which nature has been expressed? This 
is the greatness of his work; he has succeeded in seizing beauty in its 
fulness, because he cared for nothing but beauty. 


a 


q 





CHAP. 1.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. "189 


The reader will feel that such a poem cannot be recounted. In 
fact, there are six poems, each of a dozen cantos, in which the action is 
ever diverging and converging again, becoming confused and starting 
again; and all the imaginations of antiquity and of the middle-age are, 
I believe, combined in it, The knight ‘pricks along the plaine,’ among 
the trees, and at a crossing of the paths meets other knights with whom 
he engages in combat; suddenly from within a cave appears a monster, 
half woman and half serpent, surrounded by a hideous offspring ; further 
on a giant, with three bodies; then a dragon, great as a hill, with sharp 
talons and vast wings. For three days he fights him, and twice over- 
thrown, he comes to himself only by aid of ‘a gracious ointment.’ 
After that there are savage tribes to be conquered, castles surrounded 
by flames to be captured. Meanwhile ladies are wandering in the 
midst of forests, on white palfreys, exposed to the assaults of miscreants, 
now guarded by a lion which follows them, now delivered by a band of 
satyrs who adore them. Magicians work manifold charms; palaces 
display their festivities; tilt-yards furnish tournaments; sea-gods, 
nymphs, fairies, kings, mingle feasts, surprises, dangers. 

You will say it is a phantasmagoria. What matter, if we see it? 
And we do see it, for Spenser does. His sincerity wins us over. He 
is so much at home in this world, that we end by finding ourselves at 
home in it. He has no appearance of astonishment at astonishing 
events; he comes upon them so naturally, that he makes them natural ; 
he defeats the miscreants, as if he had done nothing else all his life. 
Venus, Diana, and the old deities, dwell by his threshold, and enter, 
and he takes no notice of them. His serenity becomesours. We grow 
eredulous and happy by contagion, and to the same extent as he. How 
could it be otherwise? Is it possible to refuse credence to a man who 
paints things for us with so just a detail and in so lively colours? Here 
he describes a forest for you on a sudden; are you not instantly in it with 
him? Beech trees with their silvery stems, ‘loftie trees iclad with 
sommers pride, did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide ;’ rays 
of light tremble on the bark and shine on the ground, on the redden- 
ing ferns and low bushes, which, suddenly smitten with the luminous 
track, glisten and glimmer. Footsteps are scarcely heard on the thick 
beds of heaped leaves; and at distant intervals, on the tall herbage, 
drops of dew are sparkling. Yet the sound of a horn reaches us 
through the foliage ; how sweetly it falls on the ear, with what unlooked 
for cheer in this vast silence! It resounds more loudly; the clatter of 
a hunt draws near; ‘ eft through the thicke they heard one rudely rush ;’ 

a nymph approaches, the most chaste and beautiful in the world. 
Spenser sees her; more, he kneels before her: 


‘Her face so faire, as flesh it’seemed not, 

But hevenly pourtraict of bright angels hew, 
Cleare as the skye, withouten blame or blot, 
Through goodly mixture of complexions dew ; 


190 


THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. — 


And in her cheekes the vermeill red did shew 
Like roses in a bed of lillies shed, 

The which ambrosiall odours from them threw, 
And gazers sence with double pleasure fed, 
Hable to heale the sicke and to revive the ded. 


In her faire eyes two living lamps did flame, 

Kindled above at th’ Hevenly Makers light, 

And darted fyrie beames out of the same, 

So passing persant, and so wondrous bright, 

That quite bereav’d the rash beholders sight; 

In them the blinded god his lustfull fyre 

To kindle oft assayd, but had no might ; 

For, with dredd maiestie and awfull yre, — 

She broke his wanton darts, and quenched bace desyre. 


Her yvorie forhead, full of bountie brave, 

Like a broad table did itselfe dispred, 

For Love his loftie triumphes to engrave, 

And write the battailes of his great godhed: 

All good and honour might therein be red ; 

For there their dwelling was. And, when she spake, 
Sweete wordes, like dropping honny, she did shed ; 
And ’twixt the perles and rubins softly brake 

A silver sound, that heavenly musicke seemd to make, 


Upon her eyelids many Graces sate, 

Under the shadow of her even browes, 

Working belgardes and amorous retrate ; 

And everie one her with a grace endowes, 

And everie one with meekenesse to her bowes : 

So glorious mirrhour of celestial! grace, 

And soveraine moniment of mortall vowes, 

How shall frayle pen descrive her heavenly face, 

For feare, through want of skill, her beauty to disgrace! 


So faire, and thousand thousand times more faire, 
She seemd, when she presented was to sight ; 
And was yclad, for heat of scorching aire, 

All in a silken Camus lilly whight, 

Purfled upon with many a folded plight, 

Which all above besprinckled was throughout 
With golden aygulets, that glistred bright, 

Like twinckling starres ; and all the skirt about 
Was hemd with golden fringe. 


Below-her ham her weed did somewhat trayne, 

And her streight legs most bravely were embayld 

In gilden buskins of costly cordwayne, 

All bard with golden bendes, which were entayld 
With curious antickes, and full fayre aumayld: 
Before, they fastned wére under her knee 

In a rich iewell, and therein entrayld 

The ends of all the knots, that none might see 

How they within their fouldings close enwrapped bee. 





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™ Cmar1j" = THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 191 
Like two faire marble pillours they were seene, 

Which doe the temple of the gods support, 

Whom all the people decke with girlands greene, 

And honour in their festivall resort ; 

Those same with stately grace and princely port 

She taught to tread, when she herselfe would grace ; 

But with the woody nymphes when she did play, 


Or when the flying libbard she did chace, 
She could them nimbly move, and after fly apace. 


And in her hand a sharpe bore-speare she held, 

And at her backe a bow and quiver gay, 

Stuft with steel-headed dartes wherewith she queld 

The salvage beastes in her victorious play, 

Knit with a golden bauldricke which forelay 

Athwart her snowy brest, and did divide 

Her daintie paps ; which, like young fruit in May, 

Now little gan to swell, and being tide 

Through her thin weed their places only signifide. 

Her yellow lockes, crisped like golden wyre, 

About her shoulders weren loosely shed, 

And, when the winde emongst them did inspyre, 

They waved like a penon wyde dispred, 

And low behinde her backe were scattered : 

And, whether art it were or heedlesse hap, 

As through the flouring forrest rash she fled, 

In her rade heares sweet flowres themselves did lap, 

And flourishing fresh leaves and blossomes did enwrap.”! 
*The daintie rose, the daughter of her morne, 

More deare than life she tendered, whose flowre 

The girlond of her honour did adorne : 

Ne suffred she the middayes scorching powre, 

Ne the sharp northerne wind thereon to showre ; 

But lapped up her silken leaves most chayre, 

Whenso the froward skye began to lowre ; 

But, soone as calmed was the cristall ayre, 

She did it fayre dispred, and let to florish fayre.’* 


He is on his knees before her, I repeat, as a child on Corpns Christi 
day, among flowers and perfumes, transported with admiration, so that 
he sees a heavenly light in her eyes, and angel's tints on her cheeks, 
even impressing into her service Christian angels and pagan graces to 
_ adorn and wait upon her; it is love which brings such visions before 
him: 
ko ‘ Sweet love, that doth his golden wings embay 
In blessed nectar and pure pleasures well.’ 


Whence this perfect beauty, this modest and charming dawn, in 
which he assembles all the brightness, all the sweetness, all the virgin 











1 The Faérie Queene, ii. c. 3, st. 22-80, # Ibid, iii. o, 5, st. 51. 


-192 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 11. 


graces of the full morning? What mother begat her, what marvellous. | 


birth brought to light such a wonder of grace and purity? One day, 
in a fresh, solitary fountain, where the sunbeams shone, Chrysogone 
was bathing amid the roses and violets. 


* It was upon a sommers shinie day, 
When Titan faire his beamés did display, 
‘In a fresh fountaine, far from all mens vew, 
She bath’d her brest the boyling heat t’ allay ; 
She bath’d with roses red and violets blew, 
And all the sweetest flowers that in the forrest grew. 
Till faint through yrkesome wearines adowne 
Upon the grassy ground herselfe she layd 
To sleepe, the whiles a gentle slombring swowne 
Upon her fell all naked bare displayd.’! 


The beams played upon her body, and ‘fructified’ her. The months 
rolled on. Troubled and ashamed, she went into the ‘ wildernesse,’ 
and sat down, ‘every sence with sorrow sore opprest.’ Meanwhile 


Venus, searching for her boy Cupid, who had mutinied and fled from 


her, ‘wandered in the world.’ She had sought him in courts, cities, 
cottages, promising ‘kisses sweet, and sweeter things, unto the man 
that of him tydings to her brings.’ 


* Shortly unto the wastefull woods she came, 
Whereas she found the goddesse (Diana) with her crew, 
After late chace of their embrewed game, 
Sitting beside a fountaine in a rew ; 
Some of them washing with the liquid dew 
From off their dainty limbs the dusty sweat 
And soyle, which did deforme their lively hew ; 
Others lay shaded from the scorching heat ; 
The rest upon her person gave attendance great. 
She, having hong upon a bough on high 
Her bow and painted quiver, had unlaste 
Her silver buskins from her nimble thigh, 
And her lanck loynes ungirt, and brests unbraste, 
After her heat the breathing cold to taste ; 
Her golden lockes, that late in tresses bright 
Embreaded were for hindring of her haste, 
Now loose about her shoulders hong undight, 
And were with sweet Ambrosia all besprinckled light.’* 


Diana, surprised thus, repulses Venus, ‘and gan to smile, in scorne of her 
vaine playnt,’ swearing that if she should catch Cupid, she would clip his 
wanton wings. Then she took pity on the afflicted goddess, and set her- 
self with her to look for the fugitive. They came to the ‘ shady covert’ 
where Chrysogone, in her sleep, had given birth ‘ unwares’ to two lovely 
girls, ‘as faire as springing day.’ Diana took one, and made her 





1 The Faérie Queene, iii. c. 6, st. 6 and 7. 2 Ibid. st. 17 and 18, 








— 








eh ol 2) lee as 


CHAP.L] = -—s THE PAGAN “RENAISSANCE. 198 


the purest of all virgins. Venus carried off the other to the garden of 
Adonis, ‘the first seminary of all things, that are borne to live and dye;’ 
where Psyche, the bride of Love, disports herself; where Pleasure, their 
daughter, wantons with the Graces; where Adonis, ‘lapped in flowres 
and pretious spycery,’ ‘liveth in eternal bliss,’ and came back to life 
through the breath of immortal Love. She brought her up as her 
daughter, selected her to be the most faithful of loves, and after long 
trials, gave her hand to the good knight Sir Scudamore. 

That is the kind of thing we meet with in the wondrous forest. 
Are you sick of it, and do you wish to leave it because it is wondrous ? 
At every bend in the alley, at every change of the day, a stanza, a 
word, reveals a landscape or an apparition. It is morning, the white 
dawn gleams faintly through the trees; the bluish vapours roll like a veil 
at the horizon, and vanish in the smiling air; the springs tremble and 
murmur faintly amongst the mosses, and on high the poplar leaves 
begin to stir and flutter like the wings of butterflies. A knight alights 
from his horse, a valiant knight, who has unhorsed many a Saracen, and 
experienced many an adventure. He unlaces his helmet, and on a 
sudden you perceive the very cheeks of a young girl: 


* Which doft, her golden lockes, that were upbound 
Still in a knot, unto her heeles downe traced, 

And like a silken veile in compasse round 

About her backe and all her bodie wound : 

Like as the shining skie in summers night, 

What time the dayes with scorching heat abound, 

Is creasted all with lines of firie light, 

That it prodigious seemes in common peoples sight.’? 


It is Britomart, a virgin and a heroine, like Clorinda or Marfisa,? but 
how much more ideal! The genuine sentiment of nature, sincerity 
of fancy, ever-flowing fertility of inspiration, the German gravity, re- 

animate classical or chivalrous conceptions, which have the oldest and 
most trite appearance. The train of splendours and of scenery never 
ends. Desolate promontories, cleft with gaping chasms; thunder- 
stricken and blackened masses of rocks, against which the hoarse 
breakers dash ; palaces sparkling with gold, wherein ladies, like 
angels, reclining carelessly on purple cushions, listen with sweet smiles 
to the harmony of music played by unseen hands; lofty silent walks, 
where avenues of oaks spread their motionless shadows over tufts of 
virgin violets, and turf which never mortal foot has trod ;—to all these 
beauties of art and nature he adds the marvels of mythology, and de- 
scribes them with as much of love and of full credence as a painter of 





i The Faérie Queene, iv. c. 1, st. 13. 

* Clorinda, the heroine of the infidel army in Tasso’s epic poem Jerusalem De- 
livered ; Marfisa, an Indian queen, who figures in Ariosto’s Urlando Furioso, and 
eee samme Orlando Innemorato-=Sm 





194 THE RENAISSANCE. ~ [BOOK 1. 


the Renaissance or an ancient poet. Here approach on chariots of 
shell, Cymoent and her nymphs: 


* A teme of dolphins raunged in aray 
Drew the smooth charett of sad Cymoént ; 
They were all taught by Triton to obay 
To the long raynes at her commaundément : 
As swifte as swallowes on the waves they went, 
That their brode flaggy finnes no fome did reare, 
Ne bubling rowndell they behinde them sent ; 
The rest, of other fishes drawen weare ; 
Which with their finny oars the swelling sea did sheare.’? 


Nothing, again, can be sweeter or calmer than the description of the 
palace of Morpheus: 


* He, making speedy way through spersed ayre, 
And through the world of waters wide and deepe, 
To Morpheus house doth hastily repaire. 
Amid the bowels of the earth full steepe, 
And low, where dawning day doth never peepe, 
His dwelling is; there Tethys his wet bed 
Doth ever wash, and Cynthia still doth steepe 
In silver deaw his ever-drouping hed, 
Whiles sad Night over him her mantle black doth spred. 
And, more to lulle him in his slumber soft, 
A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe, 
And ever-drizzling raine upon the loft, 
Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne 
Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swowne. 
No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes, 
As still are wont t’ annoy the walled towne, 
Might there be heard: but careless Quiet lyes, 
Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enimyes.’* 


Observe also in a corner of this forest, a band of satyrs dancing 

under the green leaves. They come leaping like wanton kids, as 
gay as birds of joyous spring. The fair Hellenore, whom they have 
chosen for ‘ May-lady,’ ‘daunst lively’ also, laughing, and ‘with gir- 
londs all bespredd.’ The wood re-echoes the sound of their ‘merry 
pypes.’ ‘Their horned feet the greene gras wore.’ ‘All day they 
daunced with great lustyhedd,’ with sudden motions and suggestive 
looks, while about them their flock feed on ‘the brouzes’ at their 
pleasure. In every book we see strange processions pass by, allegorical 
and picturesque shows, like those which were then displayed at the 
courts of princes; now a masquerade of Cupid, now of the Rivers, now 
of the Months, now of the Vices. Imagination was never more prodigal 
or inventive. Proud Lucifera advances on a chariot ‘adorned all with 
gold and girlonds gay,’ beaming like the dawn, surrounded by a crowd 





1 The Faérie Queene, iii. c. 4, st. 33. 2 Ibid. i. c. 1, st. 39 and 41, 





CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 195 


of courtiers whom she dazzles with her glory and splendour: ‘six un- 
equall beasts’ draw her along, and each of these is ridden by a Vice. 
One ‘upon ‘a slouthfull asse... in habit blacke... like to an holy 
monck,’ sick for very idleness, lets his heavy head droop, and holds in 
his hand a breviary which he does not read; another, on ‘a filthie 
. swyne,’ crawls by in his deformity, ‘his belly. . . upblowne with luxury, 
and eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne ; and like a crane his necke 
was long and fyne,’ drest in vine-leaves, through which one can see his 
body eaten by ulcers, and vomiting along the road the wine and flesh 
with which he is glutted. Another, seated between ‘ two iron coffers,’ 
‘upon a camell loaden all with gold,’ is handling a heap of coin, with 
thread-bare coat, hollow cheeks, and feet stiff with gout; another 
‘upon a ravenous wolfe still did chaw between his cankred teeth a 
venemous tode, that all the poison ran about his chaw,’ and his dis- 
coloured garment ‘ ypainted full of eies,’ conceals a snake wound about 
his body. The last, covered with a torn and bloody robe, comes riding 
on a lion, brandishing about his head ‘a burning brond,’ his eyes 
sparkling, his face pale as ashes, grasping in his feverish hand the 
haft of his dagger. The strange and terrible procession passes on, led 
by the solemn harmony of the stanzas; and the grand music of reite- 
rated thymes sustains the imagination in this fantastic world, which, 
sen its mingled horrors and splendours, has just been opened to its 























Yet all this is little, However much mythology and chivalry can 
_ supply, they do not suffice for the needs of this poetical fancy. Spenser’s 

characteristic is the vastness and the overflow of picturesque invention. 
Like Rubens, he creates whole scenes, beyond the region of all tradi- 
tions, to express distinct ideas, As with Rubens, his allegory swells its 
proportions beyond all rule, and withdraws fancy from all law, except 
in so far as it is necessary to harmonise forms and colours. For, if 
ordinary spirits receive from allegory a certain oppression, lofty imagi- 
nations receive wings which carry them aloft. Rescued by it from the 
common conditions of life, they can dare all things, beyond imitation, 
_ apart from probability, with no other guide but their inborn energy 

and their shadowy instincts. For three days Sir Guyon is led by the 
cursed spirit, the tempter Mammon, in the subterranean realm, across 
wonderful gardens, trees laden with golden fruits, glittering palaces, 
‘and a confusion of all worldly treasures. They have descended into the 
bowels of the earth, and pass through caverns, unknown abysses, silent 
_ depths. ‘An ugly Feend . .. with monstrous stalke behind him stept,’ 
without his knowledge, ready to devour him on the least show of 
covetousness. ‘The brilliancy of the gold lights up the hideous figures, 
and the beaming metal shines with a beauty more seductive in the 
gloom of the infernal prison. 


‘That Houses forme within was rade and strong, 
Lyke an huge cave hewne out of rocky clifte, 





196 THE RENAISSANCE. 


From whose rough vaut the ragged breaches hong 

Embost with massy gold of glorious guifte, 

And with rich metall loaded every rifte, 

That heavy ruine they did seeme to threatt ; 

And over them Arachne high did lifte 

Her cunning web, and spred her subtile nett, 

Enwrapped in fowle smoke and clouds more black than iett. 


Both roofe, and floore, and walls, were all of gold, 

But overgrowne with dust and old decay, 

And hid in darknes, that none could behold 

The hew thereof ; for vew of cherefull day 

Did never in that House itselfe display, 

But a faint shadow of uncertein light ; 

Such as a lamp, whose life does fade away ; 

Or as the moone, cloathed with clowdy night, 

Does shew to him that walkes in feare and sad affright. 


In all that rowme was nothing to be seene 

But huge great yron chests and coffers strong, 

All bard with double bends, that none could weene 
Them to enforce by violence or wrong ; 

On every side they placed were along. 

But all the grownd with sculs was scattered 

And dead mens bones, whick round about were flong ; 
Whose lives, it seemed, whilome there were shed, 

And their vile carcases now left unburied. . . . 


Thence, forward he him ledd and shortly brought 

Unto another rowme, whose dore forthright 

To him did open as it had beene taught : 

Therein an hundred raunges weren pight, 

And hundred fournaces all burning bright ; 

By every fournace many Feends did byde, 

Deformed creatures, horrible in sight ; 

And every Feend his busie paines applyde | 
To melt the golden metall, ready to be tryde. { 


One with great bellowes gathered filling ayre, 

And with forst wind the fewell did inflame ; 

Another did the dying bronds repayre 

With yron tongs, and sprinckled ofte the same 

With liquid waves, fiers Vulcans rage to tame, 

Who, maystring them, renewd his former heat : 

Some scumd the drosse that from the metall came ; 
Some stird the molten owre with ladles great: 

And every one did swincke, and every one did sweat... 


: 
i 
He brought him, through a darksom narrow strayt, 
To a broad gate all built of beaten gold : 
The gate was open ; but therein did wayt ; 
A sturdie Villein, stryding stiffe and bold, d 


“THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 197 


As if the Highest God defy he would : 

In his right hand an yron club he held, 

But he himselfe was all of golden mould, 

Yet had both life and sence, and well could weld 
That cursed weapon, when his cruell foes he queld ... 


He brought him in. The rowme was large and wyde, 

As it some gyeld or solemne temple weare ; 

Many great golden pillours did upbeare 

The massy roofe, and riches huge sustayne ; 

And every pillour decked was full deare 

With crownes, and diademes, and titles vaine, 

Which mortall princes wore whiles they on earth did rayne. 


A route of people there assembled were, 
Of every sort and nation under skye, 


Which with great uprore preaced to draw nere 
To th’ upper part, where was advaunced hye 


A stately siege of soveraine maiestye ; 

And thereon satt a Woman gorgeous gay, 

And richly cladd in robes of royaltye, 

That never earthly prince in such aray 

His glory did enhaunce, and pompous pryde display . .. 
There, as in glistring glory she did sitt, 

She held a great gold chaine ylincked well, 

‘Whose upper end to highest heven was knitt, 

And lower part did reach to lowest hell.’* 


No artist’s dream matches these visions: the glowing of the furnace 
under the vaults of the cavern, the lights flickering over the crowded 
figures, the throne, and the strange glitter of the gold shining in every 
_ direction through the darkness. The allegory assumes gigantic propor- 
tions. When the object is to show Temperance at issue with tempta- 
tions, Spenser deems it necessary to mass all the temptations together. 
‘He is treating of a general virtue; and as such a virtue is capable of 
_ every sort of resistance, he requires from it every sort of resistance at 
one time ;—after the test of gold, that of pleasure. Thus the grandest 
and the most exquisite spectacles follow and are contrasted with each 
_ other supernaturally ; the graceful and the terrible side by side,—the 
_ happy gardens side by side with the cursed subterranean cavern. 


@ * No gate, but like one, being goodly dight 
With bowes and braunches, which did broad dilate 
Their clasping armes in wanton wreathings intricate : 


So fashioned a porch with rare device, 

Archt over head with an vine, 
Whose bounches hanging downe seemd to entice 
All passers-by to taste their lushious wine, 


1 The Faérie Queene, ii. o. 7, st. 28-46, 

















198 “THE RENAISSANCE. 


And did themselves into their hands incline, 

As freely offering to be gathered ; 

Some deepe empurpled as the hyacine, 

Some as the rubine laughing sweetely red, 

Some like faire emeraudes, not yet well ripened. . . « 


And in the midst of all a fountaine stood, : 
Of richest substance that on earth might bee, 

So pure and shiny that the silver flood 

Through every channell running one might see ; 

Most goodly it with curious ymageree 

Was over-wrought, and shapes of naked boyes, 

Of which some seemd with lively iollitee 

To fiy about, playing their wanton toyes, 

Whylest others did themselves embay in liquid ioyes. 

And over all of purest gold was spred 

A trayle of yvie in his native hew ; 

For the rich metall was so coloured, 

That wight, who did not well avis’d it vew, 

Would surely deeme it to bee yvie trew : 

Low his lascivious armes adown did creepe, 

That themselves dipping in the silver dew 

Their fleecy flowres they fearfully did steepe, 7 
Which drops of christall seemd for wantones to weep. 
Infinit streames continually did well 

Out of this fountaine, sweet and faire to see, 

The which into an ample laver fell, 

And shortly grew te so great quantitie, 

That like a little lake it seemd to bee ; 

Whose depth exceeded not three cubits hight, 
That through the waves one might the bottom see, ; 
All pav’d beneath with jaspar shining bright, a 
That seemd the fountaine in that sea did sayle upright. . . « < = 
The ioyous birdes, shrouded in chearefull shade, 4 
Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet ; 
Th’ angelicall soft trembling voyces made 

To th’ instruments divine respondence meet 3 
The silver-sounding instruments did meet 

With the base murmure of the waters fall ; 

The waters fall with difference discreet, 

Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call ; 
The gentle warbling wind low answered to all. . 


Upon a bed of roses she was layd, 

As faint through heat, or dight to pleasant sin ; 

And was arayd, or rather disarayd, 

All in a vele of silke and silver thin, 

That hid no whit her alabaster skin, 

But rather shewd more white, if more might bee: 
More subtile web Arachne cannot spin ; 

Nor the fine nets, which oft we woven see 

Of scorched deaw, do not in th’ ayre more lightly flee. 


—— 


i i ok 4 Oo 








THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 199 


Her snowy brest was bare to ready spoyle 

Of hungry eies, which n’ ote therewith be fild ; 

And yet, through languour of her late sweet toyle, 

Few drops, more cleare then nectar, forth distild, 

That like pure orient perles adowne it trild ; 

And her faire eyes, sweet smyling in delight, 

Moystened their fierie beames, with which she thrild 

Fraile harts, yet quenched not ; like starry light, 

Which, sparckling on the silent waves, does seeme more bright.’* 





Ts not this a fairy land? We find here finished pictures, genuine 
and complete, composed with a painter’s feeling, with choice of tints 
and lines; our eyes are delighted by it. This reclining Acrasia has 
the pose of a goddess, or of one of Titian’s courtesans. An Italian 
artist might copy these gardens, flowing waters, sculptured loves, 
wreaths of creeping ivy thick with glossy leaves and fleecy flowers, 
Just before, in the infernal depths, the lights, with their long streaming 
rays, were fine, half-smothered by the darkness; the lofty throne in the 
vast hall, between the pillars, in the midst of a swarming multitude, 
connected all the forms around it by centring all regards. The poet, 
here and throughout, is a colourist and an architect. However fan- 
tastic his world may be, it is not factitious; if it is not, it might have 
been; indeed, it should have been; it is the fault of circumstances if 
they do not dispose themselves so as to bring this to pass; taken by itself, 
it possesses that internal harmony by which a real thing, even a still 
higher harmony, comes into existence, inasmuch as, amid the differences 
of real things, it is altogether, and in its least detail, constructed with 
a view to beauty. Artis matured: this is the great characteristic of 
the age, which distinguishes this poem from all similar teles heaped up 
by the middle-age. Incoherent, mutilated, they lay like rubbish, or 
rough-hewn stones, which the weak hands of the trouvéres could not 
build into a monument. At last the poets and artists are here, and 
with them the conception of beauty, to wit, the idea of the general 
effect. They understand proportions, relations, contrasts; they com- 
pose. In their hands the misty vague sketch becomes defined, com- 
plete, separate; it assumes colour—is made a picture. Every object 
thus conceived and imaged acquires a definite existence as soon as it 
acquires a true form; centuries after, it will be acknowledged and 
admired, and men will be touched by it; and more, they will be 
touched by its author; for, besides the object which he paints, the 
poet paints himself. His ruling idea is stamped upon the work which 
it produces and controls. Spenser is superior to his subject, compre- 
hends it fully, frames it with a view to the end, in order to impress 
upon it the proper mark of his soul and his genius. Each story is 
modified with respect to another, and all with respect to a certain effect 





1 The Fatrie Queene, ii. c. 12, st. 53-78. 


200 THE RENAISSANCE. _ [BooK 11. 


which is being worked out. Thus a beauty issues from this harmony, 
—the beauty in the poet’s heart,—which his whole work strives to 
express; a noble and yet a laughing beauty, made up of moral eleva- 
tion and sensuous seductions, English in sentiment, Italian in externals, 
chivalric in subject, modern in its perfection, representing a unique and 
admirable epoch, the appearance of paganism in a Christian race, and 
the worship of form by an imagination of the North. 


8. Prose. 


L 


Such an epoch can scarcely last, and the poetic vitality expends 
itself in a blossom of prose, so that its expansion leads to its decline. 
From the beginning of the seventeenth century, the enfeeblement of 
manners and genius grows apparent. Enthusiasm and respect decline. 
The minions and sycophants of the court intrigue and pilfer, amid 
pedantry, puerility, and show. The court. plunders, and the nation 
murmurs. The Commons begin to show a stern front, and the king, 
scolding them like a schoolmaster, bends before them like a little boy. 
This pitiable monarch (James 1.) suffers himself to be bullied by his 
favourites, writes to them like a gossip, calls himself a Solomon, airs 
his literary vanity, and in granting an audience to a courtier, holds up 
to him his own reputation as a savant, and expects to be answered in 
the same strain. The dignity of the government is weakened, and the 
people’s loyalty is cooled. Royalty declines, and revolution is fostered. 
At the same time, the noble chivalric paganism degenerates into a base 
and coarse sensuality. The king, we are told, on one occasion, had got 
so drunk with his royal brother Christian of Denmark, that they both 
had to be carried to bed. Sir John Harrington says: 


‘ The ladies abandon their sobriety, and are seen to roll about in intoxica- 
tion. . . . The Lady who did play the Queen’s part (in the Masque of the Queen 
of Sheba) did carry most precious gifts to both their Majesties ; but, forgetting 
the steppes arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish Majesties 
lap, and fell at his feet, tho I rather think it was in his face. Much was the 
hurry and confusion ; cloths and napkins were at hand, to make all clean. His 
Majesty then got up and would dance with the Queen of Sheba; but he fell 
down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber and 
laid on a bed of state; which was not a little defiled with the presents of the 
Queen which had been bestowed on his garments; such as wine, cream, jelly, 
beverage, cakes, spices, and other good matters. The entertainment and show 
went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down ; wine did 
so occupy their upper chambers. Now did appear, in rich dress, Hope, Faith, 
and Charity: Hope did assay to speak, but wine rendered her endeavours so feeble 
that she withdrew, and hoped the king would excuse her brevity: Faith . . . left 
the court in a staggering eondition. . . . They were both sick and spewing in the 
lower hall, Next came Victory, who... by a strange medley of versification 





‘ 
‘ 
“ 





CHAP. L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 201 


. « » and after much lamentable utterance, was led away like a silly captive, and . 
laid to sleep in the outer steps of the anti-chamber. As for Peace, she most 
rudely made war with her olive branch, and laid on the pates of those who did 
oppose her coming. I ne'er did see such lack of good order, discretion, and 
sobriety in our Queen's days.’* 
Observe that these tipsy women were great ladies. The reason is, 
that the grand ideas which introduce an epoch, end, in their exhaus- 
tion, by preserving nothing but their vices; the proud sentiment of 
natural life becomes a vulgar appeal to the senses. An entrance, an 
arch of triumph under James 1., often represented obscenities; and 
later, when the sensual instincts, exaggerated by Puritan tyranny, 
begin to raise their heads once more, we shall find under the Restora- 
tion, revelling in its debauchery, and triumphing in its shame. 
while the literature undergoes a change; the powerful breeze 
which had guided it, and which, amidst singularity, refinements, exag- 
_- Gerations, had made it great, slackened and diminished. With Carew, 
Suckling, and Herrick, prettiness takes the place of the beautiful. 
That which strikes them is no longer the general features of things ; 
that which they try to express is no longer the inner character of 
things. They no longer possess that liberal conception, that instinctive 
penetration, by which man sympathised with objects, and grew capable 
of creating them anew. They no longer boast of that overflow of 
emotions, that excess of ideas and images, which compelled a man to 
relieve himself by words, to act externally, to represent freely and 
boldly the interior drama which made his whole body and heart 
tremble. They are rather wits of the court, cavaliers of fashion, 
who wish to try their hand at imagination and style. In their hands 
love becomes gallantry; they write songs, fugitive pieces, compli- 
ments to the ladies. Do their hearts still prick them? They turn 
eloquent phrases in order to be applauded, and flattering exaggera- 
tions in order to please, The divine faces, the serious or profound 
looks, the vein or impassioned expressions which burst forth at every 
step in the early poets, have disappeared; here we see nothing but 
agreeable Beiiesee painted in agreeable verses. Blackguardism 
is not far off; we meet with it as early as in Suckling, and crudity to 
boot, and prosaic epicurism ; their sentiment is expressed before long, 
in such a phrase as: ‘Let us amuse ourselves, and a fig for the rest.’ 
The only objects they can paint, at last, are little graceful things, a 
kiss, a May-day festivity, a dewy primrose, a marriage morning, a 
bee.? Herrick and Suckling especially produce little exquisite poems, 
delicate, ever laughing or smiling like those attributed to Anacreon, 





1 Nuge Antiqua, i. 349 et passim. 
* ‘Some asked me where the Rubies grew, 
And nothing I did say ; 
But with my finger pointed to 
The lips of Julia. 


202 | THE RENAISSANCE. _ [Book ml. 


or those which abound in the Anthology. In fact, here, as at the time 
alluded to, we are at the decline of paganism; energy departs, the 
reign of the agreeable begins. People do not relinquish the worship 
of beauty and pleasure, but dally with them. They deck and fit 
them to their taste; they cease to subdue and bend men, who sport 
and amuse themselves with them. It is the last beam of a setting 
sun; the genuine poetic sentiment dies out with Sedley, Waller, and 
the rhymesters of the Restoration; they write prose in verse; their 
heart is on a level with their style, and with an exact language we 
find the commencement of a new age and a new art. 

Side by side with prettiness comes affectation; it is the second 


mark of the decadence. Instead of writing to say things, they write 


to say them well; they outbid their neighbours, and strain every mode 
of speech: they push art over on the side to which it had a leaning ; 
and as in this age it had a leaning towards vehemence and imagination, 





Some ask’d how Pearls did grow, and where ; 
Then spake I to my girle, 
To part her lips, and shew me there 
The quarelets of Pearl. 
One ask’d me where the roses grew ; 
I bade him not go seek ; 
But forthwith bade my Julia show 
A bud in either cheek.’ 
Herrick’s Hesperides, ed. Walford, 1859 5 
The Rock of Rubies, p. 32. 


* About the sweet bag of a bee, 
Two Cupids fell at odds ; 
And whose the pretty prize shu’d be, 
They vow’'d to ask the Gods. 

Which Venus hearing, thither came, 
And for their boldness stript them ; 
And taking thence from each his flame, 

With rods of mirtle whipt them. 
Which done, to still their wanton cries, 
When quiet grown sh’ad seen them, 
She kist and wip’d their dove-like eyes, 
And gave the bag between them.’ 
Herrick, Ibid. ; The Bag of the Bee, p. 41. 


* Why so pale and wan, fond lover? 

Prithee, why so pale ? 

Will, when looking well can’t move her, 
Looking ill prevail ? 
Prithee, why so pale? 

Why so dull and mute, young sinner? 
Prithee, why so mute ? 

Will, when speaking well can’t win her, 
Saying nothing do’t ? 
Prithee, why so mute ? 














CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 203 


they pile up their emphasis and colouring. Sg 
out of a style. In all arts, the first masters, the inventors, discover the 

idea, steep themselves in it, and leave it to effect its outward form. 
Then come the second class, the imitators, who sedulously repeat this 
form, and alter it by exaggeration. Some nevertheless have talent, as 
Quarles, Herbert, Babington, Donne in particular, a pungent satirist, 
of terrible crudeness,' a powerful poet, of a precise and intense imagi- 
nation, who still preserves something of the energy and thrill of the 
original inspiration.* But he deliberately abuses all these gifts, and 


Quit, quit for shame: this will not move, 
This cannot take her ; 
If of herself she will not love, 
Nothing can make her. 
The devil take her!’ 
Sir Joun Sucxino’s Works, ed. A. Suckling, 1836, p. 70. 


* As when a lady, walking Flora’s bower, 
Picks here a pink, and there a gilly-flower, 
Now plucks a violet from her purple bed, 
And then a primrose, the year’s maidenhead, 
There nips the brier, here the lover’s pansy, 
Shifting her dainty pleasures with her fancy ; 
This on her arms, and that she lists to wear 
Upon the borders of her curious hair ; 
At length a rose-bud (passing all the rest) 
She plucks, and bosoms in her lily breast.’ 
QuaR.es, Chambers’ Cyclopedia of Engl. Lit. i. 140. 
‘See in particular, his satire against the courtiers. The following is against 


* But he is worst, who (beggarly) doth chaw 

Other's wits fruits, and in his ravenous maw 

Rankly digested, doth those things outspue, 

As his owne things ; and they are his owne, ‘tis true, 

For if one eate my meate, though it be knowne 

The meat was mine, th’ excrement is his owne.’ 

Donne's Satires, 1639. Satire ii. p. 128. 

When I behold a stream, which from the spring 

Doth with doubtful melodious murmuring, 

Or in a speechless slumber calmly ride 

Her wedded channel's bosom, and there chide 

And bend her brows, and swell, if any bough 

Does but stoop down to kiss her utmost brow ; 

Yet if her often gnawing kisses win 

The traiterous banks to gape and let her in, 

She rusheth violently and doth divorce 

Her from her native and her long-kept course, 

And roares, and braves it, and in gallant scorn 

In flatt’ring eddies promising return, 

She flouts her channel, which thenceforth is dry, 

Then say I; That is she, and this am I.’ 





204 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


succeeds with great difficulty in concocting a piece of nonsense. For 
instance, the impassioned poets had said to their mistress, that if they 
lost her, they should hate all other women. Donne, in order to eclipse 
them, says: 

*O do not die, for I shall hate 

All women so, when thou art gone, 

That thee I shall not celebrate 

When I remember thou wast one.’! 


Twenty times while reading him we rub our brow, and ask with aston- 
ishment, how a man could so have tormented and contorted himself, 
strained his style, refined on his refinement, hit upon such absurd com- 
parisons? But this was the spirit of the age; they made an effort to be 
ingeniously absurd. A flea had bitten Donne and his mistress. He 
says: 

‘This flea is you and I, and this 

Our mariage bed and mariage temple is. 

Though Parents grudge, and you, w’are met, 

And cloyster’d in these living walls of Jet. 

Though use make you apt to kill me, 

Let not to that selfe-murder added be, 

And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.’? 


The Marquis de Mascarille* never found anything to equal this. Would 
you have believed a writer could invent such absurdities? She and he 
made but one, for both are but one with the flea, and so one could not 
be killed without the other. Observe that the wise Malherbe wrote 
very similar enormities, in the Tears of St. Peter, and that the sonneteers 
of Italy and Spain reach simultaneously the same height of folly, and 
you will agree that throughout Europe at that time they were at the 
close of a poetical epoch. 

On this boundary line of a closing and a dawning literature a poet 
appeared, one of the most fanciful and illustrious of his time, Abraham 
Cowley,* a precocious child, a reader and a versifier like Pope, having 
known passions less than books, busied himself less about things than 


about words. Literary exhaustion has seldom been more manifest. 


He possesses all the capacity to say whatever pleases him, but he has 
just nothing to say. ‘The substance has vanished, leaving in its place a 
hollow shadow. In vain he tries the epic, the Pindaric strophe, all 
kinds of stanzas, odes, little lines, long lines; in vain he calls to his 
assistance botanical and philosophical similes, all the erudition of the 
university, all the relics of antiquity, all the ideas of new science: we 
yawn as we read him. Except in a few descriptive verses, two or three 





1 Poems, 1639: A Feawer, p. 15. 2 Ibid. : The Flea, p. 1. 

% A valet in Molitre’s Les Précieuses Ridicules, who apes and exaggerates his 
master’s manners and style, and pretends to be a marquess. He also appears in 
L’ Etourdi and Le dépit Amoureux, by the same author.—TR. 

* 1608-1667. I refer to the eleventh edition of 1710. 








Poe ae a meee ees, 
7 - a 


- * 


CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 205 


graceful tendernesses,' he feels nothing, he speaks only ; he is a poet of 
the brain. His collection of amorous pieces is but a vehicle for a scien- 
tific test, and serves to show that he has read the authors, that he knows 
his geography, that he is well versed in anatomy, that he has a dash of 
medicine and astronomy, that he has at his service references and 
allusions enough to break the head of his readers. He will speak in 
this wise: 

* Beauty, thou active—passive Ill! 

Which dy’st thyself as fast as thou dost kill!’ 
or will remark that his mistress is to blame for spending three hours 
every morning at her toilet, because 

‘They make that Beauty Tyranny, 
That's else a Civil-government.’ 

After reading two hundred pages, you feel disposed to box his ears. 
You have to think, by way of consolation, that every age must draw to 
a close, that this one could not do so otherwise, that the old glow of en- 
thusiasm, the sudden flood of rapture, images, capricious and audacious 
fancies, which once rolled through the mind of men, arrested now and 
cooled down, could only exhibit dross, a curdling scum, a multitude of 
brilliant and hurtful points. You say to yourself that, after all, Cowley 
had perhaps talent; you find that he had in fact one, a new talent, 
unknown to the old masters, the sign of a new culture, which needs 
other manners, and announces a new society. Cowley had these 
manners, and belongs to this society. He was a well-governed, 
reasonable, instructed, polished, well-trained man, who, after twelve 
years of service and writing in France, under Queen Henrietta, retires 
at last wisely into the country, where he studies natural history, and 
prepares a treatise on religion, philosophising on men and life, fertile 
in general reflections and ideas, a moralist, bidding his executor ‘to let 
nothing stand in his writings which might seem the least in the world 
to be an offence against religion or good manners.’ Such dispositions 
and such a life produce and indicate less a poet, that is, a seer, a 
creator, than a literary man, I mean a man who can think and speak, 
and who therefore ought to have read much, learnt much, written much, 
ought to possess a calm and clear mind, to be accustomed to poli 
society, sustained conversation, a sort of raillery, In fact, Cowley is 
an author by profession, the oldest of those who in England deserve the 
name. His prose is as easy and sensible as his poetry is contorted and 
unreasonable. A polished man, writing for polished men, pretty much 
as he would speak to them in a drawing-room,—this I take to be the 
idea which they had of a good author in the seventeenth century. It 
is the idea which Cowley’s Essays leave of his character ; it is the kind 
of talent which the writers of the coming age take for their model; and 





* The Spring (The Mistress, i. 72). 


206 _ ‘THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK It. 


he is the first of that grave and amiable group which, continued in 
Temple, reaches so far as to include Addison. 


II. 


Having reached this point, the Renaissance seemed to have attained 
its limit, and, like a drooping and faded flower, to be ready to leave 
its place for a new bud which began to rise from the ruins. At all 
events, a living and unexpected shoot sprang from the old declining 
stock. At the moment when art languished, science shot forth; 
the whole labour of the age ended in this. The fruits are, not 
unlike; on the contrary, they come from the same sap, and by the 
diversity of the shape only manifest two distinct periods of the inner 
growth which has produced them. Every art ends in a science, and 
every poetry in a philosophy. For science and philosophy do but 
translate in precise formulas the original conception which art and 
poetry render sensible by imaginary figures: when once the idea of an 
epoch is manifested in verse by ideal creations, it naturally comes to be 
expressed in prose by positive arguments. That which had struck 
men on escaping from ecclesiastical oppression and monkish asceticism 
was the pagan idea of a life true to nature, and freely developed. They 
had found nature buried behind scholasticism, and they had expressed 
it in poems and paintings; in Italy by superb healthy corporeality, in 
England by vehement and unconventional spirituality, with such divina- 
tion of its laws, instincts, and forms, that one might extract from their 
theatre and their pictures a complete theory both of soul and body. 
When enthusiasm is past, curiosity begins. The sentiment of beauty 
gives way to the sentiment of truth. ‘The theory embraced in works 
of imagination is unfolded. The gaze continues fixed on nature, not 
to admire now, but to understand. From painting we pass to anatomy, 
from the drama to moral philosophy, from grand poetical divinations 
to great scientific views; the second continue the first, and the same 
spirit shows in both; for what art had represented, and science pro- 
ceeds to observe, are living things, with their complex and complete 
structure, set in motion by their internal forces, with no supernatural 
intervention. Artists and savants, all set out, with no misgiving, from 
the master conception, to wit, that nature subsists of herself, that every 
existence has in its own womb the source of its action, that the causes 
of events are the innate laws of things; an all-powerful idea, from 
which was to issue the modern civilisation, and which, at the time I 
write of, produced in England and Italy, as before in Greece, genuine 
sciences, side by side with a complete art: after da Vinci and Michael 
Angelo, the school of anatomists, mathematicians, naturalists, ending 
with Galileo ; after Spenser, Ben Jonson, and Shakspeare, the school 
of thinkers who surround Bacon and lead up to Harvey. 

We ‘have not far to look for this school. In the interregnum of 
Christianity the dominating bent of mind belongs to it. It was paganism 











CHAP. L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 207 


which reigned in Elizabeth's court, not only in letters, but in doctrine,— 
a paganism of the north, always serious, generally sombre, but which 
rested, like that of the south, on natural forces. From some, all Chris- 
tianity was effaced ; many proceed to atheism from the excess of revulsion 
and debauchery, like Marlowe and Greene. With others, like Shak- 
speare, the idea of God scarcely makes its appearance ; they see in our 
poor short human life only a dream, and beyond it the long sad sleep: 
for them, death is the goal of life; at most a dark gulf, into which man 
plunges, uncertain of the issue. If they carry their gaze beyond, they 
perceive,’ not the soul welcomed into a purer world, but the corpse 
abandoned to the damp earth, or the ghost hovering about the church- 
yard. They speak like sceptics or superstitious men, never as genuine 
believers. Their heroes have human, not religious virtues; against 
crime they rely on honour and the love for the beautiful, not on piety and 
the fear of God. If others, few and far, like Sidney and Spenser, catch 
a glimpse of this god, it is as a vague ideal light, a sublime Platonic 
phantom, which has no resemblance to a personal God, a strict inquisitor 
of the slightest motions of the heart. He appears at the summit of 
things, like the splendid crown of the world, but He does not weigh 
upon human life; He leaves it intact and free, only turning it towards 
the beautiful. They do not know as yet the sort of narrow prison in 
which official cant and respectable creeds were, later on, to confine 
action and intelligence. Even the believers, sincere Christians like 
Bacon and Browne, discard all oppressive sternness, reduce Christianity 
to a sort of moral poetry, and allow naturalism to subsist beneath re- 
ligion. In such a broad and open channel, speculation could spread its 
wings. With Lord Herbert appeared a systematic deism ; with Milton 
and Algernon Sidney, a philosophical religion; Clarendon went so far 
as to compare Lord Falkland’s gardens to the groves of Academe, 
Against the rigorism of the Puritans, Chillingworth, Hales, Hooker, the 
greatest doctors of the English Church, give a large place to natural 
reason,—so large, that never, even to this day, has it made such an 
advance. 

An astonishing irruption of facts—the discovery of America, the 
revival of antiquity, the restoration of philology, the invention of the 
arts, the development of industries, the march of human curiosity over 
theavhole of the past and the whole of the globe—came to furnish sub- 
ject-matter, and prose began its reign. Sidney, Wilson, Ascham, and 
Puttenham explored the rules of style; Hackluyt and Purchas com- 
piled the cyclopedia of travel and the description of every land; 
Holinshed, Speed, Raleigh, Stowe, Knolles, Daniel, Thomas More, 
Lord Herbert, founded history ; Camden, Spelman, Cotton, Usher, and 
Selden inaugurate scholarship; a legion of patient workers, of obscure 





1 See in Shakspeare, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Hamlet; in Beaumont 
and Fletcher, Thierry and Theodoret, Act iv.; Webster, passim, 


Sk ee a ie ee) eee 


i 4 


208 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK IL. 


collectors, of literary pioneers, amassed, arranged, and sifted the 
documents which Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Thomas Bodley stored up 
in their libraries; whilst utopists, moralists, painters of manners— 
Thomas More, Joseph Hall, John Earle, Owen Feltham, Burton— 
described and passed judgment on the modes of life, continued with 
Fuller, Sir Thomas Browne, and Isaac Walton up to the middle of the 
next century, and increase the number of controversialists and politicians 
who, with Hooker, Taylor, Chillingworth, Algernon Sidney, Harring- 
ton, study religion, society, church and state. A copious and con- 
fused fermentation, from which abundance of thoughts proceeded, but 
few notable books. Noble prose, such as was heard at the court of 
Louis xtv., in Pollio, in the schools at Athens, such as rhetorical and 
sociable nations know how to produce, was altogether lacking. These 
men had not the spirit of analysis, the art of following step by step the 
natural order of ideas, nor the spirit of conversation, the talent never to 
weary or shock others. Their imagination is too little regulated, and 
their manners too little polished. They who had mixed most in the 
world, even Sidney, speak roughly what they think, and as they think 
it. Instead of glossing, they exaggerate. They blurt out all, and with- 
hold nothing. When they do not employ excessive compliments, they 
take to coarse pleasantries. -They overlook measured charm, refined 
raillery, delicate flattery. They rejoice in gross puns, dirty allusions. 
They mistake paradoxical enigmas and grotesque images for wit. Great 
lords and ladies, they talk like ill-bred persons, lovers of buffoonery, of 
shows and bear-fights. With some, as Overbury or Sir Thomas Browne, 
poetry trenches so much upon prose, that it covers its narrative with 
images, and hides ideas under its pictures. They load their style with 
flowery comparisons, which produce one another as they go along, and 
mount one above another, so that sense disappears, and ornament only 
is visible. In fine, they are generally pedants, still stiff with the rust — 
of the school; they divide and subdivide, propound theses, definitions ; 
they argue solidly and heavily, and quote their authors in Latin, and 
even in Greek; they square out their massive periods, and learnedly 
knock their adversaries down, and their readers too, by the very re- 
bound. They are never on the prose-level, but always above or 
below—above by their poetic genius, below by the weight of their edu- 
cation and the barbarism of their manners. But they think seriously 
and for themselves; they are deliberate; they are.convinced and 
touched by what they say. Even in the compiler we find a force and 
loyalty of spirit, which give confidence and cause pleasure, Their 
writings are like the powerful and heavy engravings of their contem- 
poraries, the maps of Hofnagel for instance, so harsh and so instruc- 
tive; their conception is sharp and clear; they have the gift of per- 
ceiving every object, not under a general aspect, like the classical 
writers, but specially and individually. It is not man in the abstract, 
the citizen as he is everywhere, the countryman as such, that they : 





CHAP. 1] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 209 


represent, but James or Thomas, Smith or Brown, of such a parish, 
from such an office, with such and such attitude or dress, distinct from 
all others; in short, they see, not the idea, but the individual. Imagine 
the disturbance that such a disposition produces in a man's head, how 
the regular order of things becomes deranged by it; how every object, 
with the infinite medley of its forms, properties, appendages, will thence- 
forth fasten itself by a hundred points of contact unforeseen to another 
object, and bring before the mind a series or a family; what boldness 

will derive from it; what familar, picturesque, absurd words 
will break forth in succession ; how the dash, the impromptu, the origin- 
ality and inequality of invention, will stand out. Figure, at the same 
time, what a hold this form of mind has on objects, how many facts it 
condenses in one conception ; what a mass of personal judgments, 
foreign authorities, suppositions, guesses, imaginations, it spreads over 
every subject ; with what haphazard and creative fecundity it 
both truth and conjecture. It is an extraordinary chaos of thoughts 
and forms, often abortive, still more often barbarous, sometimes grand. 
But from this superfluity something lasting and great is produced, 
namely science, and we have only to examine more closely into one or 
two of these works to see the new creation emerge from the blocks and 
the debris, 

Il. 


Two writers above all display this state of mind. The first, Robert 
Burton, an ecclesiastic and university recluse, who passed his life in 
libraries, and dabbled in all the sciences, as learned as Rabelais, of an 
inexhaustible and overflowing memory ; unequal, moreover, gifted with 
enthusiasm, and spasmodically gay, but as a rule sad and morose, to the 
extent of confessing in his epitaph that melancholy made up his life and 
his death ; in the first place original, enamoured of his own intelligence, 
and one of the earliest models of that singular English mood which, 
withdrawing man within himself, develops in him, at one time imagina- 
tion, at another scrupulousness, at another oddity, and makes of him, 
according to circumstances, a poet, an eccentric, a humorist, a madman, 
or a puritan. He read on for thirty years, put an encyclopedia into 
his head, and now, to amuse and relieve himself, takes a folio of blank 
paper. Twenty lines of a poet, a dozen lines of & treatise on’agricul- 
ture, a folio column of heraldry, the patience, the record of the fever 
fits of hypochondria, the history of the particle que, a scrap of meta- 
physics,—this is what passes through his brain in a quarter of an hour : 
it is a carnival of ideas and phrases, Greek, Latin, German, French, 
Italian, philosophical, geometrical, medical, poetical, astrological, musical, 
pedagogic, heaped one on the other; an enormous medley, a prodigious 
mass of jumbled quotations, jostling thoughts with the vivacity and 
the transport of a feast of unreason." 


1 See for this feast Walter Scott's Abbot, chs. xiv. and xv.—Tx. 
0 





210 THE RENAISSANCE, [Boox m 


‘This roving humour (though not with like suécess) I have ever had, and, like 
a raging spaniel that barks at every bird he sees, leaving his game, I have followed 
all, saving that which I should, and may justly complain, and truly, qui ubique 
est, nusquam est, which Gesner did in modesty: that I have read many books, but 
to little purpose, for want of good method ; I have confusedly tumbled over divers 
authors in our libraries with small profit, for want of art, order, memory, judgment. 
I never travelled but in map or card, in which my unconfined thoughts have freely 
expatiated, as having ever been especially delighted with the study of cosmography. 
Saturn was lord of my geniture, culminating, etc., and Mars principal significator 
of manners, in partile conjunction with mine ascendant; both fortunate in their 
houses, etc. Iam not poor, I am not rich ; nihil est, nihil deest ; I have little, I 
want nothing: all my treasure is in Minerva’s tower. Greater preferment as I 
could never get, so am I not in debt for it. I have a competency (/aws Deo) from 
my noble and munificent patrons. Though I live still a collegiat student, as 
_ Democritus in his garden, and lead a monastique life, ipse mihi theatrum, sequestred 
from those tumults and troubles of the world, e¢ tanguam in speculd positus (as he 
said), in some high place above you all, like Stoicus sapiens, omnia secula preterita 
presentiaque videns, uno velut intuitu, I hear and see what is done abroad, how 
others run, ride, turmoil, and macerate themselves in court and ‘countrey. Far 
from these wrangling lawsuits, aule vanitatem, fori ambitionem, videre mecum 
soleo: I laugh at all, only secure, lest my suit go amiss, my ships perish, corn and 
cattle miscarry, trade decay ; I have no wife nor children, good or bad, to provide 
for ; a mere spectator of other men’s fortunes and adventures, and how they act 
their parts, which methinks are diversely presented unto me, as from a common 
theatreorscene. I hear new news every day: and those ordinary rumours of war, 


plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets ; spectrums, _ 


prodigies, apparitions; of towns taken, cities besieged in France, Germany, 
Turkey, Persia, Poland, etc., daily musters and preparations, and such like, which 
these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, 
shipwracks, piracies, and sea-fights, peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms— 
a vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, 
proclamations, complaints, grievances,—are daily brought to our ears: new books 
every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts, 


new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, 


etc. Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments; 
jubiles, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, 
' playes: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, 
enormous Villanies, in all kinds, funerals, burials, death of princes, new discoveries, 
expeditions ; now comical, then tragical matters. To-day we hear of new lords 
and officers created, to-morrow of some great men deposed, and then again of 
fresh honours conferred: one is let loose, another imprisoned: one purchaseth, 
another breaketh: he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt ; now plenty, then 
again dearth and famine ; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps, etc. 
Thus I daily hear, and such like, hoth private and publick news.’? 

* For what a world of books offers itself, in all subjects, arts, and sciences, to 
the sweet content and capacity of the reader? In arithmetick, geometry, perspec- 
tive, optick, astronomy, architecture, sculptura, pictura, of which so many and 
such elaborate treatises are of late written: in mechanicks and their mysteries, 
military matters, navigation, riding of horses, fencing, swimming, gardening, 





1 Anatomy of Melancholy, 12th ed, 1821, 2 vols,; Democritus to the Reader, i, 4, 


‘th te lla 7 ee 
CHAP. L]’ THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE, 211 


planting, great tomes of husbandry, cookery, faulconry, hunting, fishing, fowling, 
etc., with exquisite pictures of all sports, games, and what not. In musick, meta- 
physicks, natural and moral philosophy, philologie, in policy, heraldry, genealogy, 
chronology, ete., they afford great tomes, or those studies of antiquity, ete., et quid 
subtilius arithmeticis inventionibus? quid jucundius musicis rationibus? quid divinius 
astronomicia ? quid rectius geometricis demonstrationibus ? What so sure, what so 
pleasant? He that shall but see the geometrical tower of Garezenda at Bologne 
in Italy, the steeple and clock at Strasborough, will admire the effects of art, or 
that engine of Archimedes to remove the earth itself, if he had but a place to 
fasten his instrument. Archimedis cochlea, and rare devises to corrivate waters, 
musick instruments, and trisyllable echoes again, again, and again repeated, with 
miriades of such. What vast tomes are extant in law, physick, and divinity, for 
profit, pleasure, practice, speculation, in verse or prose, etc. ! Their names alone are 
the subject of whole volumes: we have thousands of authors of all sorts, many 
great libraries, full well furnished, like so many dishes of meat, served out for 
several palates, and he is a very block that is affected with none of them. Some 
take an infinite delight to study the very languages wherein these books are 
written—Hebrew, Greek, Syriack, Chalde, Arabick, etc. Methinks it would 
please any man to look upon a geographical map (suavi animum delectatione alli- 
cere, ob incredibilem rerum varietatem et jucunditatem, et ad pleniorem sui cogni- 
tionem excitare), chorographical, topographical delineations ; to behold, as it were, 
all the remote provinces, towns, cities of the world, and never to go forth of the 
limits of his study ; to measure, by the scale and compasse, their extent, distance, 
examine their site. Charles the Great (as Platina writes) had three faire silver 
tables, in one of which superficies was a large map of Constantinople, in the second 
Rome neatly engraved, in the third an exquisite description of the whole world ; 
and much delight he took in them. What greater pleasure can there now be, 
than to view those elaborate maps of Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius, etc, ? to peruse 
those books of cities put out by Braunus and Hogenbergius? to read those ex- 
_ quisite descriptions of Maginus, Munster, Herrera, Laet, Merula, Boterus, Leander 
Albertus, Camden, Leo Afer, Adricomius, Nic. Gerbelius, etc.? those famous ex- 
peditions of Christopher Columbus, Americus Vespucius, Marcus Polus the Vene- 
tian, Lod. Virtomannus, Aloysius Cadamustus, etc.? those accurate diaries of 
Portugals, Hollanders, of Bartison, Oliver a Nort, etc., Hacluit’s Voyages, Pet. 
Martyr’s Decades, Benzo, Lerius, Linschoten’s relations, those Hodcporicons of 
Jod. a Meggea, Brocarde the Monke, Bredenbachius, Jo. Dublinius, Sands, etc., 
to Jerusalem, Egypt, and other remote places of the world? those pleasant itine- 
raries of Paulus Hentzerus, Jodocus Sincerus, Dux Polonus, etc. ? to read Bellonius 
observations, P. Gillius his survayes ; those parts of America, set out, and curiously 
cut in pictures, by Fratresa Bry? To see a well cut herbal, hearbs, trees, flowers, 
plants, all vegetals, expressed in their proper colours to the life, as that of Mat- 
thiolus upon Dioscorides, Delacampius, Lobel, Bauhinus, and that last voluminous 
and mighty herbal of Besler of Noremberge ; wherein almost every plant is to his 
own bignesse. To see birds, beasts, and fishes of the sea, spiders, gnats, serpents, 
flies, etc., all creatures set out by the same art, and truly expressed in lively 
colours, with an exact description of their natures, vertues, qualities, ete., as hath 
been accurately performed by lian, Gesner, Ulysses Aldrovandus, Bellonius, 
Rondoletius, Hippolytus Salvianus, ete.’* 


He is never-ending ; words, phrases, overflow, are heaped up, re- 
1 Anatomy of Melancholy, i. part 2, sec, 2, Mem. 4, p. 420 et passim, 













































213 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 11 


peated, and flow on, carrying the reader along, deafened, wearied, half- 
drowned, unable to touch ground in the deluge. Burton is inexhaust- 
ible. There are no ideas which he does not iterate under fifty forms : 
when he has expended his own, he pours out upon us other men’s—the 
classics, the rarest authors, known only by savants—authors rarer still, 
known only to the learned; he borrows from alJl. Underneath these 
deep caverns of erudition and science, there is one blacker and more 
unknown than all the others, filled with forgotten authors, with crack- 
jaw names, Besler of Nuremberg, Adricomius, Linschoten, Brocarde, 
Bredenbachius. Amidst all these antediluvian monsters, bristling with 
Latin terminations, he is at his ease ; he sports with them, laughs, skips 
from one to the other, drives them all at once. He is like old Proteus, 
the bold runner, who in one hour, with his team of hippopotami, makes 
the circuit of the ocean. 

What subject does he take? Melancholy, his individual mood; 
and he takes it like a schoolman.. None of St. Thomas’ treatises is 
more regularly constructed than his, This torrent of erudition is dis- 
tributed in geometrically planned channels, turning off at right angles 
without deviating by a line. At the head of every part you will find 
a synoptical and analytical table, with hyphens, brackets, each division 
begetting its subdivisions, each subdivision its sections, each section its 
subsections: of the malady in general, of melancholy in particular, of 
its nature, its seat, its varieties, causes, symptoms, its prognosis; of its 
cure by permissible means, by forbidden means, by dietetic means, by 
pharmaceutical means. After the scholastic process, he descends from 
the general to the particular, and disposes each emotion and idea in its 
labelled case. In this framework, supplied by the middle-age, he 
heaps up the whole, like a man of the Renaissance,—the literary de- 
scription of passions and the medical description of mental alienation, 


details of the hospital with a satire on human follies, physiological _ 


treatises side by side with personal confidences, the recipes of the 
apothecary with moral counsels, remarks on love with the history of 
evacuations. The discrimination of ideas has not yet been effected ; 
doctor and poet, man of letters and savant, he is all at once; for want 
of dams, ideas pour like different liquids into the same vat, with strange 
spluttering and bubbling, with an unsavoury smell and odd effect. 
But the vat is full, and from this admixture are produced potent com- 
pounds which no preceding age had known. 


IV. 

For in this mixture there is an effectual leaven, the poetic senti- 
ment, which stirs up and animates the vast erudition, which will not 
be confined to dry catalogues; which, interpreting every fact, every 
object, disentangles or divines a mysterious soul within it, and agitates 
the whole spirit of man, by representing to him the restless world 
within and without him as a grand enigma. Let us conceive a kindred 


’ 


= 





CHAP. L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 213 


spirit to Shakspeare’s, a scholar and an observer instead of an actor 
and a poet, who in place of creating is occupied in comprehending, but 
who, like Shakspeare, applies himself to living things, penetrates their 
internal structure, puts himself in communication with their actual 
laws, imprints in himself fervently and scrupulously the smallest details 
of their figure ; who at the same time extends his penetrating surmises 
beyond the region of observation, discerns behind visible phenomena 
a world obscure yet sublime, and trembles with a kind of veneration 
before the vast, indistinct, but populous abyss on whose surface our 
little universe hangs quivering. Such a one is Sir Thomas Browne, 
a naturalist, a philosopher, a scholar, a physician, and a moralist, 
almost the last of the generation which produced Jeremy Taylor and 
Shakspeare. No thinker bears stronger witness to the wandering and 
inventive curiosity of the age. No writer has better displayed the 
brilliant and sombre imagination of the North. No one has spoken 
with a more eloquent emotion of death, the vast night of forgetfulness, 
of the all-devouring pit, of human vanity, which tries to create an 
immortality out of ephemeral glory or sculptured stones. No one has 
revealed, in more glowing and original expressions, the poetic sap 
which flows through all the minds of the age. 


‘But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the 
memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the 
founder of the pyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the temple of Diana, he is 
almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's horse, con- 
founded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of 
our good names, since bad have equal duration ; and Thersites is like to live as 
long as Agamemnon. Who knows whether the best of men be known, or whether 
there be not more remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in 
the known account of time? Without the favour of the everlasting register, the 
first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methuselah’s long life had been his 
only chronicle. 

‘ Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though 
they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. 
Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded 
names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long 
exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who 
knows when was the equinox? Every hour adds unto the current arithmetick which 
scarce stands one moment. And since death must be the Lucina of life, and even 
Pagans could doubt, whether thus to live were to die ; since our longest sun sets at 
right declensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long 
before we lie down in darkness, and have our light in ashes; since the brother of 
death daily haunts us with dying mementos, and time, that grows old in itself, bids 
us hope no long duration ;—diuturnity is a dream, and folly of expectation. 

* Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory 
@ great part even of our living beings ; we slightly remember our felicities, and the 
smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no 
extremities, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are 
fables. Afflictions induce callosities ; miseries are slippery, or fall like snow upon 


214 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


us, which notwithstanding is no unhappy stupidity. To be ignorant of evils to 
come, and forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision of nature, whereby we 
digest the mixture of our few and evil days ; and our delivered senses not relapsing 
into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions. 
. -» All was vanity, feeding the wind, and folly. The Egyptian mummies, which 
Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become mer- 
chandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams. . .. Manisa 
noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities 
and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infancy of 
his nature. . . Pyramids, arches, obelisks, were but the irregularities of vain glory, 
and wild enormities of ancient magnanimity.’! 


These are almost the words of a poet, and it is just this poet’s imagi- 
nation which urges him onward into science. Amidst the productions 
of nature he abounds with conjectures, generalisations; he gropes about, 


proposing explanations, making trials, extending his guesses like so~ 


many flexible and vibrating tentacula into the four corners of the globe, 
into the most distant regions of fancy and truth. As he looks upon the 
tree-like and foliated crusts which are formed upon the surface of freez- 
ing liquids, he asks himself if this be not a regeneration of vegetable 
essences, dissolved in the liquid. At the sight of curdling blood or 
milk, he inquires whether there be not something analogous to the 
formation of the bird in the egg, or in that coagulation of chaos which 
gave birth to our world. In presence of that impalpable force which 
makes liquids freeze, he asks if apoplexies and cataracts are not the 
effects of a like power, and do not indicate the presence of a congealing 
_agency. He is in presence of nature as an artist, a literary man, in pre- 
sence of a living countenance, marking every feature, every movement 
of physiognomy, so as to be able to divine the passions of the inner 
disposition, ceaselessly correcting and reversing his interpretations, kept 


in agitation by the invisible forces which operate beneath the visible _ 


envelope. The whole of the middle-age and of antiquity, with their 
theories and imaginations, Platonism, Cabalism, Christian theology, 
Aristotle’s substantial forms, the specific forms of the alchemists,—all 
human speculations, strangled or transformed one within the other, 


meet simultaneously in his brain, so as to open up to him vistas of this 


unknown world. The mass, the pile, the confusion, the inner fermen- 
tation and swarming, mingled with vapours and flashes, the tumultuous 
overloading of his imagination and his mind, oppress and agitate him. 
In this expectation and emotion his curiosity is enlisted in everything; 
in reference to the least fact, the most special, the oldest, the most 
chimerical, he conceives a chain of complicated investigation, calculat- 
ing how the ark could contain all creatures, with their provision of food ; 
how Perpenna, in his feast, arranged the invited so as to strike Sertorius, 





1 The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Wilkin, 1852, 3 vols. Hydriotaphia, 
iii. ch. v. 44 e¢ passim. 


# See Milsand, Htude sur Sir Thomas Browne, Revue des deua Mondes, 1858. 








THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 215 


his guest; what trees must have grown on the banks of Acheron, sup- 
posing that there were any; whether quincunx plantations had not their 
origin in Eden, and whether the numbers and geometrical figures con- 
' tained in the lozenge-form are not met with in all the productions of 
nature and art. You may recognise here the exuberance and the 
strange caprices of an inner development too ample and too strong. 
Archwology, chemistry, history, nature, there is nothing in which he 
is not interested to the extent of a passion, witich does not cause his 
memory and his ingenuity to overflow, which does not summon up 
within him the idea of some force, certainly admirable, possibly infinite. 
But what finishes in depicting him, what signalises the advance of 
science, is the fact that his imagination provides a counterbalance 
against itself. He is as fertile in doubts as he is in explanations, If 
he sees the thousand reasons which tend to one view, he sees also the 
thousand which tend to the contrary. At the two extremities of the 
same fact, he raises up to the clouds, but in equal piles, the scaffolding 
of contradictory arguments. Having made a guess; he knows that it 
is but a guess; he pauses, ends with a perhaps, recommends verifica- 
tion. His writings consist only of opinions, given as such; even his 
principal work is a refutation of popular errors. After all, he proposes 
questions, suggests explanations, suspends his judgments ; nothing more, 
but this is enough: when the search is so eager, when the paths in 
which it proceeds are so numerous, when it is so scrupulous in making 
certain of its basis, the issue of the pursuit is sure; we are but a few 
steps from the truth, 


ae 


In this band of scholars, dreamers, and enquirers, appears the most 
comprehensive, sensible, originative of the minds of the age, Francis 
Bacon, a great and luminous intellect, one of the finest of this poetic 
progeny, who, like his predecessors, was naturally disposed to clothe his 
ideas in the most splendid dress: in this age, a thought did not seem 
- complete until it had assumed a form and colour. But what distin- 
guishes him from the others is, that with him an image only serves to 
concentrate meditation. He reflected long, stamped on his mind all the 
parts and joints of his subject; and then, instead of dissipating | his 
complete idea in a graduated chain of reasoning, he embodies it in a 
comparison so expressive, exact, transparent, that behind the figure we 
perceive all the details of the idea, like a liquor in a fair crystal vase. 
Judge of his style by a single example: 


*For as water, whether it be the dew of Heaven or the springs of the earth, 
easily scatters and loses itself in the ground, except it be collected into some 
receptacle, where it may by union and consort comfort and sustain itself (and for 
that cause, the industry of man has devised aqueducta, cisterns, and pools, and 
likewise beautified them with various ornaments of magnificence and state, as well 
as for use and necessity); so this excellent liquor of knowledge, whether it descend 


216 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK. II. 


from divine inspiration or spring from human sense, would soon perish and vanish 


into oblivion, if it were not preserved in books, traditions, conferences, and — 


especially in places appointed for such matters as universities, colleges, and schools, 
where it may have both a fixed habitation, and means and opportunity of increasing 
and collecting itself.’ 

‘The greatest error of all the rest, is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or 
farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and 
knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite ; sometimes 
to entertain their minds with variety and delight ; sometimes for ornament and 
reputation ; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction ; 
and most times for lucre and profession ; and seldom sincerely to give a true account 
of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in 
knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit ; or a terrace, 
for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a 
tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding 
ground, for strife and contention ; or a shop, for profit or sale ; and not a rich 
storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man’s estate.’ 

This is his mode of thought, by symbols, not by analysis; instead 
of explaining his idea, he transposes and translates it,—translates it 
entire, to the smallest details, enclosing all in the majesty of a grand 
period, or in the brevity of a striking sentence. Thence springs a 
style of admirable richness, gravity, and vigour, now solemn and 
symmetrical, now concise and piercing, always elaborate and full of 
colour.’ There is nothing in English prose superior to his diction. 

Thence is derived also his manner of conceiving of things. He is 
not a dialectician, like Hobbes or Descartes, apt in arranging ideas, 
in educing one from another, in leading his reader from the simple to 
the complex by an unbroken chain. He is a producer of conceptions 
and of sentences. The matter being explored, he says to us: ‘ Such 
it is; touch it not on that side; it must be approached from the other.’ 
Nothing more; no proof, no effort to convince: he affirms, and does 
nothing more; he has thought in the manner of artists and poets, and 
he speaks after the manner of prophets and seers. Cogita et visa, this 
title of one of his books might be the title of all. The most admirable, 
the Novum Organum, is a string of aphorisms,—a collection, as it were, 
of scientific decrees, as of an oracle who foresees the future and reveals 
the truth. And to make the resemblance complete, he expresses them 
by poetical figures, by enigmatic abbreviations, almost in Sibylline 
verses: Idola spects, Idola tribis, Idola fori, Idola theatri, every one 
will recall these strange names, by which he signifies the four kinds of 
illusions to which man is subject. Shakspeare and the seers do not 





‘ SR apt Works. Translation of the De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book ii.; To 
the King. ; 

* Ibid. Book i. The true end of learning mistaken. 

5 Especially in the Zssays, 

*See also Novum Organum, Books i. and ii. ; the twenty-seven kinds of 
examples, with their metaphorical names: IJnstantie crucis, divortit janue, 
danstantia innuentes, polychreste, magica, etc. 


CHAP, L.] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 217 


contain more vigorous or expressive condensations of thought, more 
resembling inspiration, and in Bacon they are to be found everywhere. 
In short, his process is that of the creators ; it is intuition, not reason- 
ing. When he has laid up his store of facts, the greatest possible, on 
some vast subject, on some entire province of the mind, on the whole 
anterior philosophy, on the general condition of the sciences, on the 
power and limits of human reason, he casts over all this a comprehen- 
sive view, as it were a great net, brings up a universal idea, condenses 
his idea into a maxim, and hands it to us with the words, ‘ Verify and 
profit by it.’ 

There is nothing more hazardous, more like fantasy, than this mode 
of thought, when it is not checked by natural and strong good sense. 
This common sense, which is a kind of natural divination, the stable 
equilibrium of an intellect always gravitating to the true, like the 
needle to the north pole, Bacon possesses in the highest degree. He 
has a pre-eminently practical, even an utilitarian mind, such as we 
meet with later in Bentham, and such as their business habits were to 
impress more and more upon the English. At the age of sixteen, 
while at the university, he was dissatisfied with Aristotle's philosophy,* 
not that he thought meanly of the author, whom, on the contrary, he 
calls a great genius; but becanse it seemed to him of no: practical 
utility, ‘incapable of producing works which might promote the well- 
being of men.’ We see that from the outset he struck upon his 
dominant idea: all else comes to him from this; a contempt for 
antecedent philosophy, the conception of a different system, the entire 
reformation of the sciences by the indication of a new goal, the defini- 
tion of a distinct method, the opening up of unsuspected anticipations.* 
It is never speculation which he relishes, but the practical application 
of it. His eyes are turned not to heaven, but to earth, not to things 
‘abstract and vain,’ but to things palpable and solid, not to curious 
but to profitable truths. He seeks to better the condition of men, to 
labour for the welfare of mankind, to enrich human life with new 
discoveries and new resources, to equip mankind with new powers and 
new instruments of action. His philosophy itself is but an instru- 
ment, organum, a sort of machine or lever constructed to enable the 
intellect to raise a weight, to break through obstacles, to open up 
vistas, to accomplish tasks which had hitherto surpassed its power. 
In his eyes, every special science, like science in general, should be an 
implement. He invites mathematicians to quit their pure geometry, 
to study numbers only with a view to their physical application, to 
seek formulas only to calculate real quantities and natural motions. 





1 The Works of Francis Bacon, London 1824, vol. vii. p. 2. Latin Biography 
Rawley. 
Preaek ts tecaght oul by th tevide ot Lad Mheendi. Critical and 
LTistorical Essays, vol. iii. 





218 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II, 


He recommends moralists to study the mind, the passions, habits, 
endeavours, not merely in a speculative way, but with a view to the 
cure or diminution of vice, and assigns to the science of morals as its 
end the amelioration of morals. For him, the object of science is 
always the establishment of an art, that is, the production of some- 
thing of practical utility; when he wished to describe the efficacious 
nature of his philosophy apparent by a tale, he delineated in the New 
Atlantis, with a poet’s boldness and the precision of a seer, with 
almost literal exactness, modern applications, and the present organisa- 
tion of the sciences, academies, observatories, air-balloons, submarine 
vessels, the improvement of land, the transmutation of species, rege- 
nerations, the discovery of remedies, the preservation of food, ‘The 
end of our foundation,’ says his principal personage, ‘ is the knowledge 
of causes and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds 
of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.’ And this 
‘ possible’ is infinite. 

How did this grand and just conception originate? Doubtless 
common sense and genius too were necessary to its production; but 
neither common sense nor genius was lacking to men: there had been 
more than one who, remarking, like Bacon, the progress of particular 
industries, could, like him, have conceived of universal industry, 
and from certain limited ameliorations have advanced to unlimited 
amelioration, Here we see the power of combined efforts; men 
think they do everything by their individual thought, and they can 
do nothing without the assistance of the thoughts of their neighbours ; 
they fancy that they are following the small voice within them, but 
they only hear it because it is swelled by the thousand buzzing and 
imperious voices, which, issuing from all surrounding things, far and 
near, are confounded with it in an harmonious vibration, Generally 
they hear it, as Bacon did, from the first moment of reflection; but 
it had become inaudible among the opposing sounds from without. 
Could this confidence in the infinite enlargement of human power, 
this glorious idea of the universal conquest of nature, this firm hope 
in the continual increase of well-being and happiness, have germinated, 
grown, occupied an intelligence entirely, and thence have struck its 
roots, been propagated and spread over neighbouring intelligences, in 
a time of discouragement and decay, when men believed the end of 
the world at hand, when things were falling into ruin about them, 
when Christian mysticism, as in the first centuries, ecclesiastical 
tyranny, as in the fourteenth century, were convincing them of their 
impotence, by perverting their intellectual efforts and curtailing their 
liberty? More than that: such hopes must then have seemed to be 
outbursts of pride, or suggestions of the flesh. They did seem so; 
and the last representatives of ancient science, and the first of the new, 
were exiled or imprisoned, assassinated or burned. In order to be 
developed, an idea must be in harmony with surrounding civilisation ; 








oe eg 


CHAP. L] THE PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 219. 


before man can expect to attain the dominion over nature, or attempts 
to improve his condition, amelioration must have begun on all sides, 
industries have increased, knowledge have been accumulated, the arts 

expanded, a hundred thousand irrefutable witnesses must have come 
to give proof of his ‘power and assurance of his progress, The ‘mascu- 
line birth of the time’ (temporis partus masculus) is the title which 
Bacon applies to his work, and it is a true one. In fact, the whole age 
co-operated in it; by this creation it was finished. The consciousness 
of human power and prosperity furnished to the Renaissance its first 
energy, its ideal, its poetic materials, its distinguishing features; and 
now it furnished it with its final expression, its scientific doctrine, and 
its ultimate object. 

We may add also, its method. For, the end of a journey once 
fixed, the route is laid down, since the end always determines the 
route; when the point of arrival is changed, the path of approach is 
changed, and science, varying its object, varies also its method, So 
long as it limited its effort to the satisfying an idle curiosity, open- 
ing out speculative vistas, establishing a sort of opera in speculative 
minds, it could launch out any moment into metaphysical abstractions 
and distinctions: it was enough for it to skim over experience; it 
soon quitted it, and came all at once upon great words, quiddities, the 
principle of individuation, final causes, Half proofs sufficed science ; 
at bottom it did not care to establish a truth, but to get an opinion; 
and its instrument, the syllogism, was serviceable only for refutations, 
not for discoveries: it took general laws for a starting-point instead 
of a point of arrival; instead of going to find them, it fancied 
them found. The syllogism was good in the schools, not in nature ; 
it made disputants, not discoverers. From the moment that science 
had art for an end, and men studied in order to act, all was trans- 
formed ; for we cannot act without certain and precise knowledge. 
Forces, before they can be employed, must be measured and verified ; 
before we can build a house, we must know exactly the resistance of 
the beams, or the house will collapse; before we can cure a sick man, 
we must know with certainty the effect of a remedy, or the patient 
will die. Practice makes certainty and exactitude a necessity to 
science, because practice is impossible when it has nothing to lean 
upon but guesses and approximations. How can we eliminate guesses 
and approximations? We must imitate the cases in which science, 
issuing in practice, is shown to be precise and certain, and these cases 
are the industries. We must, as in the industries, observe, essay, 
attempt, verify, keep our mind fixed ‘on sensible and 
things,’ advance to general rules only step by step; ‘not anticipate’ 
experience, but follow it; not imagine nature, but ‘interpret it.’ For 
every general effect, such as heat, whiteness, hardness, liquidity, we 
must seek a general condition, so that in producing the condition we 
may produce the effect. And for this it is necessary, ‘ by fit rejections 


ae, 


— 


220 THE RENAISSANCE, [BOOK It. 


and exclusions,’ to extract the condition sought from the heap of facts 
in which it lies buried, construct the table of cases from which the 
effect is absent, the table where it is present, the table where the effect 
is shown in various degrees, so as to isolate and bring to light the 
condition which produced it. Then we shall have, not useless uni- 
versal axioms, but ‘ efficacious mediate axioms,’ true laws from which 
we can derive works, and which are the scurces of power in the same 
degree as the sources of light. Bacon described and predicted in this 
modern science and industry, their correspondence, method, resources, 
principle ; and after more than two centuries, it is still to him that we 
go to discover the theory of what we are attempting and doing. 
Beyond this great view, he has discovered nothing. Cowley, one 
of his admirers, justly said that, like Moses on Mount Pisgah, he was 
the first to announce the promised land ; but he might have added quite 


as justly, that, like Moses, he did not enter there. He pointed out | 


the route, but did not travel it; he taught men how to discover natural 
laws, but discovered none. His definition of heat is extremely imper- 
fect. His Natural History is full of chimerical explanations.* Like 
the poets, he peoples nature with instincts and desires; attributes to 
bodies an actual voracity, to the atmosphere a thirst for the light, 
sounds, odours, vapours, which it drinks in; to metals a sort of haste 
to be incorporated with acids. He explains the duration of the bubbles 
of air which float on the surface of liquids, by supposing that air has a 
very small or no attraction to high latitudes. He sees in every quality, 
weight, ductility, hardness, a distinct essence which has its special 
cause; so that when one knows the cause of every quality of gold, one 
will be able to put all these causes together, and make gold. In brief, 
with the alchemists, Paracelsus and Gilbert, Kepler himself, with all the 
men of his time, men of imagination, nourished on Aristotle, he repre- 
sents nature as a compound of secret and lively energies, inexplicable 
and primordial forces, distinct and indecomposable essences, adapted 
each by the will of the Creator to produce a distinct effect. He almost 
saw souls endowed with dull repugnances and occult inclinations, which 
aspire to or resist certain directions, certain mixtures, and certain 
localities. On this account also he confounds everything in his re- 
searches in an undistinguishable mass, vegetative and medicinal pro- 
perties, physical and moral, without considering the most complex as 
depending on the simplest, but each on the contrary in itself, and taken 
apart, as an irreducible and independent existence. Obstinate in this 
error, the thinkers of the age mark time without advancing. They see 
clearly with Bacon the wide field of discovery, but they cannot advance 
into it. They want an idea, and for want of this idea they do not ad- 
vance. The disposition of mind which but now was a lever, is become 





1 Novum Organum, ii. 15 and 16. 2 Novum Organum, i. i. 3. 
* Natural History, 800, 24, ete. De Augmentis, iii. i. 


2 








CHAP. 1.] THE. PAGAN RENAISSANCE. 321 





an obstacle: it must be changed, that the obstacle may be got rid of. 
For ideas, I mean great and efficacious ones, do not come at will nor by 
chance, by the effort of an individual, or by a happy accident, Like 
literatures and religions, methods and philosophies arise from the spirit 
of the age; and this spirit of the age makes them potent or powerless. 
One state of public intelligence excludes a certain kind of literature; 
another, a certain scientific conception. When it happens thus, writers 
and thinkers labour in vain, the literature is abortive, the conception 
does not make its appearance. In vain they turn one way and another, 
trying to remove the weight which hinders them; something stronger 
than themselves paralyses their hands and frustrates their endeavours. 
The central pivot of the vast wheel on which human affairs move must 
be displaced one notch, that all may move with its motion. At this 
moment the pivot was moved, and thus a revolution of the great wheel 
begins, bringing round a new conception of nature, and in consequence 
that part of the method which was lacking. To the diviners, the 
creators, the comprehensive and impassioned minds who seized objects 
in a lump and in masses, succeeded the discursive thinkers, the sys- 
tematic thinkers, the graduated and clear logicians, who, disposing ideas 
in continuous series, led the hearer insensibly from the simple to the 
most complex by easy and unbroken paths. Descartes superseded 
Bacon; the classical age obliterated the Renaissance ; poetry and lofty 
imagination gave way before rhetoric, eloquence, and analysis. In this 
transformation of mind, ideas were transformed, Everything was 
sobered down and simplified. The universe, like all else, was reduced 
to two or three notions; and the conception of nature, which was 
poetical, became mechanical. Instead of souls, living forces, repug- 
nances, and attractions, we have pulleys, levers, impelling forces. The 
world, which seemed a mass of instinctive powers, is now like a mere 

i of serrated wheels. Beneath this adventurous supposition 
lies a large and certain truth: that there is, namely, a scale of facts, 
some at the summit very complex, others at the base very simple; those 
above having their origin in those below, so that the lower ones ex- 
plain the higher; and that we must seek the primary laws of things 
in the laws of motion. ‘The search was made, and Galileo found them. 
Thenceforth the work of the Renaissance, passing the extreme point to 
which Bacon had pushed it, and at which he had left it, was able to 
. proceed onward by itself, and did so proceed, without limit, 


222 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


CHAPTER IL 


The Theatre. 


I. The public—The stage. 

Il. Manners of the sixteenth century—Violent and complete expansion of nature. 

Ill, English manners—Expansion of the energetic and gloomy character. 

IV. The poets—General harmony between the character of a poet and that of his 
age—Nash, Decker, Kyd, Peele, Lodge, Greene—Their condition and life 
—Marlowe—His life—His works—Tamburlaine—The Jew of Malia— 
Edward II,.—Faustus—His conception of man. 

V. Formation of this drama—The process and character of this art—Imitative 
sympathy, which depicts by expressive specimens—Contrast of classical 
and Germanic art—Psychological construction and proper sphere of these 
two arts, 

Vi. Male characters—Furious passions—Tragical events—Exaggerated characters 
— The Duke of Milan by Massinger—Ford’s Annabella—Webster’s Duchess 
of Matfi and Vittoria—Female characters—Germanic idea of love and mar- 
riage—Euphrasia, Bianca, Arethusa, Ordella, Aspasia, Amoret, in Beau- 
mont and Fletcher— Penthea in Ford— Agreement of the moral and 
physical type. 


E must look at this world more closely, and beneath the ideas 
which are developed seek for the men who live; it is the 
theatre especially which is the original product of the English Renais- 
sance, and it is the theatre especially which will exhibit the men of the 
‘English Renaissance. Forty poets, amongst them ten of superior rank, and 
the greatest of all artists who have represented the soul in words; many 
hundreds of pieces, and nearly fifty masterpieces; the drama extended 
over all the provinces of history, imagination, and fancy,—expanded so 
as to embrace comedy, tragedy, pastoral and fanciful literature—to 
represent all degrees of human condition, and all the caprices of human 
invention —to express all the sensitive details of actual truth, and all the 
philosophic grandeur of general reflection ; the stage disencumbered of 
all precept and freed from all imitation, given up and appropriated in 
the minutest particulars to the reigning taste and the public intelli- 
gence: all this was a vast and manifold work, capable by its flexibility, 
its greatness, and its form, of receiving and preserving the exact im- 
print of the age and of the nation.? 





1 Shakspeare, ‘The very age and body of the time, his form and pressure,’ 








CHAP. I1.] - THE THEATRE. 223 


Let us try, then, to set before our eyes this public, this audience, 
and this stage—all connected with one another, as in every natural 
and living work; and if ever there was a living and natural work, it is 
here. ‘There were already seven theatres in Shakspeare’s time, so brisk 
and universal was the taste for representations. Great and rude con- 
trivances, awkward in their construction, barbarous in their appoint- 
ments; but a fervid imagination readily supplied all that they lacked, 
and hardy bodies endured all inconveniences without difficulty. On 
a dirty site, on the banks of the Thames, rose the principal theatre, the 
Globe, a sort of hexagonal tower, surrounded by a muddy ditch, sur- 
mounted by a red flag. The common people could enter as well as the 
rich: there were sixpenny, twopenny, even penny seats; but they could 
not see it without money. If it rained, and it often rains in London, 
the people in the pit, butchers, mercers, bakers, sailors, apprentices, 
receive the streaming rain upon their heads, I suppose they did not 
trouble themselves about it; it was not so long since they began to 
pave the streets of London; and when men, like them, have had ex- 
perience of sewers and puddles, they are not afraid of catching cold. 
While waiting for the piece, they amuse themselves after their fashion, 
drink beer, crack nuts, eat fruits, howl, and now and then resort to 
their fists; they have been known to fall upon the actors, and turn the 
theatre upside down, At other times they have gone in disgust to the 
tavern to give the poet a hiding, or toss him in a blanket; they were 
rude jokers, and there was no month when the cry of ‘ Clubs’ did not 
call them out of their shops to exercise their brawny arms. When the 
beer took effect, there was a great upturned barrel in the pit, a peculiar 
receptacle for general use. The smell rises, and then comes the cry, 
‘Burn the juniper!’ They burn some in a plate on the stage, and the 
heavy smoke fills the air. Certainly the folk there assembled could 
scarcely get disgusted at anything, and cannot have had sensitive noses, 
In the time of Rabelais there was not much cleanness to speak of. 
Remember that they were hardly out of the middle-age, and that in 
the middle-age man lived on the dunghill. 

Above them, on the stage, were the spectators able to pay a 
shilling, the elegant people, the gentlefolk. These were sheltered 
from the rain, and if they chose to pay an extra shilling, could have 
a stool. To this were reduced the prerogatives of rank and the devices 
of comfort: it often happened that stools were lacking; then they 
stretched themselves on the ground: they were not dainty at such 
_ times, They play cards, smoke, insult the pit, who give it them back 
without stinting, and throw apples at them into the bargain. As for the 
gentlefolk, they gesticulate, swear in Italian, French, English ;} crack 


1 Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour ; Cynthia's Revels. 











224 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


aloud jokes in dainty, composite, high-coloured words: in short, they 
have the energetic, original, gay manners ot artists, the same humour, 
the same absence of constraint, and, to complete the resemblance, the 
same desire to make themselves singular, the same imaginative cravings, 
the same absurd and picturesque devices, beards cut to a point, into 
the shape of a fan, a spade, the letter T, gaudy and expensive dresses, 
copied from five or six neighbouring nations, embroidered, laced with 
gold, motley, continually heightened in effect, or changed for others: 
there was, as it were, a carnival in their brains as on their backs, 

With such spectators illusions could be produced without much 
trouble: there were ne preparations or perspectives; few or no move- 
able scenes: their imaginations took all this upon them, A scroll in 
big letters announced to the public that they were in London or Con- 
stantinople; and that was enough to carry the public to the desired 
place. There was no trouble about probability. Sir Philip Sidney 
writes : 

* You shall have Asia of the one side, and Africke of the other, and so many other 
under-kingdomes, that the Plaier when hee comes in, must ever begin with telling 
where hee is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now shall you have three 
Ladies walke to gather flowers, and then wee must beleeve the stage to bea garden. 
By and by wee heare newes of shipwracke in the same place, then wee are to blame 
if we accept it not fora rocke; . . . while in the meane time two armies flie in, 
represented with foure swordes and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not 
receive it for a pitched field? Now of time they are much more liberall. For 
ordinary it is, that two young Princes fall in love, after many traverses, shee is got 
with childe, delivered of a faire boy, hee is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, 
and is readie to get another childe ; and all this in two houres space.”* 


Doubtless these enormities were somewhat reduced under Shakspeare ; 
with a few hangings, rude representations of animals, towers, forests, 


they assisted somewhat the public imagination. But in fact, in Shaks- _ 


peare’s plays as in all others, the public imagination is the great con- 
triver ; it must lend itself to all, substitute all, accept for a queen a 
young boy whose beard is beginning to grow, endure in one act twelve 
changes of place, leap suddenly over twenty years or five hundred 
miles,” take half a dozen supernumeraries for forty thousand men, and 
to have represented by the rolling of the drums all the battles of 
Cesar, Henry v., Coriolanus, Richard m1. All this, imagination, being 
so overflowing and so young, does accept! Recall your own youth; 
for my part, the deepest emotions I have had at a theatre were given 
to me by an ambling bevy of four young girls, playing comedy and 
drama on a stage in a coffeehouse ; true, I was eleven years old. Soin 
this theatre, at this moment, their souls were fresh, as ready to feel 
everything as the poet was to dare everything. 





1 The Defence of Poesie, ed. 1629, p. 562. 
* Winter's Tale; Cymbeline; Julius Cesar. 


——°  —— 





a foe 


THE THEATRE, 225 


These are but externals; let us try to advance further, to observe 
the passions, the bent of mind, the inner man: it is this inner state 
which raised and modelled the drama, as everything else; invisible 
inclinations are everywhere the cause of visible works, and the interior 
shapes the exterior, What are these townspeople, courtiers, this 
public, whose taste fashions the theatre? what is there particular in 
the structure and condition of their mind ? The condition must needs 
be particular; for the drama flourishes all of a sudden, and for sixty 
years together, with marvellous luxuriance, and at the end of this time 
is arrested so that no effort could revive it. The structure must be 
particular; for of all theatres, old and new, this is distinct in form, and 
displays a style, action, characters, an idea of life, which are not found 
in any age or any country beside. This particular feature is the free 
and complete expansion of nature. 

What we call nature in men is, man such as he was before culture 
and civilisation had deformed and re-formed him. Almost always, when 
a new generation arrives at manhood and consciousness, it finds a code 
of precepts which it imposes on itself, with all the weight and autho- 
rity of antiquity. A hundred kinds of chains, a hundred thousand 
kinds of ties, religion, morality, manners, every legislation which 
regulates sentiments, morals, manners, fetter and tame the creature of 
impulse and passion which breathes and frets within each of us. There 
is nothing like that here. It is a regeneration, and the curb of the 
past is wanting to the present. Catholicism, reduced to external cere- 
mony and clerical chicanery, had just ended; Protestantism, arrested in 
its endeavours, or straying into sects, had not yet gained the mastery ; 
the religion of discipline was grown feeble, and the religion of morals 
was not yet established ; men ceased to listen to the directions of the 
clergy, and had not yet spelt out the law of conscience, The church 
was turned into an assembly room, as in Italy; the young fellows came 
to St. Paul’s to walk, laugh, chatter, display their new cloaks; the 
thing had even passed into a custom, They paid for the noise they 
made with their spurs, and this tax was a source of income to the 
canons ;' pickpockets, the girls of the town, came there by crowds; 
these latter struck their bargains while service was going on, Imagine, 
in short, that the scruples of conscience and the severity of the Puri- 
tans were odious things, and that they ridiculed them on the stage, 





1 Strype, in his Annals of the Reformation (1571), says ; ‘ Many now were wholly 
from the communion of the church, and came no more to hear divine 
service in their parish churches, nor received the holy sacrament, according to the 
laws of the realm.’ Richard Baxter, in his Life, published in 1696, says: ‘ We 
lived in a country that had but little preaching at all. . . . In the village where 
I lived the Reader read the Common Prayer briefly ; and the rest of the day, even 


till dark night almost, rchaeteca was spent in Dancing under a Maypole 


- 


226 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK H. 


and judge of the difference between this sensual, unbridled England, 
and the correct, disciplined, stern England of our own time. Ecclesi- 
astical or secular, we find no signs of rule. In the failure of faith, 
reason had not gained sway, and opinion is as void of authority as 
tradition. The imbecile age, which has just ended, continues buried in 
scorn, with its ravings, its verse-makers, and its pedantic text-books ; 
and out of the liberal opinions derived from antiquity, from Italy, 
France, and Spain, every one could pick as it pleased him, without 
stooping to restraint or acknowledging a superiority. There was no 
model imposed on them, as nowadays; instead of affecting imitation, 
they affected originality.1 Each strove to be himself, with his own 
oaths, fashions, costumes, his specialties of conduct and humour, and 
to be unlike every one else. They said not, ‘So and so is done,’ but 
‘I do so and so.’ Instead of restraining themselves, they expanded. 
There was no etiquette of society; save for an exaggerated jargon of 
chivalresque courtesy, they are masters of speech and action on the 
impulse of the moment. You will find them free from decorum, as 
of all else. In this outbreak and absence of fetters, they resemble 
thorough-bred horses let loose in the meadow. Their inborn instincts 
have not been tamed, nor muzzled, nor diminished. 

On the contrary, they have been preserved intact by bodily and 
military training; and escaping as they were from barbarism, not from 
civilisation, they had not been acted upon by the inner softening and 
hereditary tempering which are now transmitted with the blood, and 
civilise a man from the moment of his birth. This is why man, who 
for three centuries has been a domestic animal, was still almost a savage 
beast, and the force of his muscles and the strength of his nerves in- 
creased the boldness and energy of his passions. Look at these uncul- 
tivated men, men of the people, how suddenly the blood warms and 
rises to their face; their fists double, their lips press together, and those — 
vigorous bodies are hurried at once into action. ‘The courtiers of that 
age were like our men of the people. They had the same taste for the 
exercise of their limbs, the same indifference toward the inclemencies of 
the weather, the same coarseness of language, the same undisguised 
sensuality. They were carmen in body and gentlemen in sentiment, 
with the dress of actors and the tastes of artists. ‘At fourtene,’ says 
- John Hardyng, ‘a lordes sonnes shalle to felde hunte the dere, and 
catch an hardynesse. For dere to hunte and slea, and see them blede, 
ane hardyment gyffith to his courage. . . . At sextene yere, to werray 
and to wage, to juste and ryde, and castels to assayle . . . and every 





and a great tree, not far from my father’s door, where all the Town did meet 
together. And though one of my father’s own Tenants was the piper, he could 
not restrain him nor break the sport. So that we could not read the Scripture in 
our family without the great disturbance of the Taber and Pipe and noise in 
the street.’ 

4 Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour, 











ae 4 ee eee ete eee, | UO 
ie 


. THE THEATRE. 227 


day his armure to assay in fete of armes with some of his meyne.’* 
When ripened to manhood, be is employed with the bow, in wrestling, 
leaping, vaulting. Henry vit.’s court, in its noisy merriment, was 
like a village fair. The king, says Holinshed, exercised himself 
‘dailie in shooting, singing, dancing, wrestling, casting of the barre, 
plaieing at the recorders, flute, virginals, in setting of songs, and 
making of ballads.’ He leaps the moats with a pole, and was once 
within an ace of being killed. He is so fond of combat, that publicly, 
on the field of the Cloth of Gold, he seized Francis 1. in his arms 
to throw him.. This is how a soldier or a bricklayer nowadays tries 
a new comrade. In fact, they regarded as amusements, like soldiers 
and bricklayers, gross jests and brutal buffooneries, In every great 
house there was a fool, ‘whose business was to bring out pointed jests, 
to make eccentric gestures, horrible faces, to sing licentious songs,’ 
as one might hear now in a beer-house. They thought malice and 
obscenity a joke. They were foul-mouthed, they swallowed Rabelais’ 
words undiluted, and delighted in conversation which would revolt 
us. They had no respect for humanity; the empire of proprieties and 
the habits of good breeding began only under Louis xtv., and by imita- 
tion of the French; at this time they all blurted out the word that fitted 
in, and that was most frequently a coarse word. You will see on the 
stage, in Shakspeare’s Pericles, the filth of a haunt of vice.* The 
great lords, the well-dressed ladies, spoke Billingsgate slang. When 
Henry v. paid his court to Catherine of France, it was with the coarse 
bearing of a sailor who might have taken a fancy to a sutler; and like 
the tars who tattoo a heart on their arms to prove their love for the girls 
they left behind them, you find men who ‘devoured sulphur and drank 
urine’* to win their mistress by a proof of affection. Humanity is as 

much lacking as decency.* Blood, suffering, does not move them. The 





1 The Chronicle of John Hardyng (1436), ed. H. Ellis, 1812. Preface. 

* Act iv. 2and 4. See also the character of Calypso in Massinger ; Putana in 
Ford ; Protalyce in Beaumont and Fletcher. 

3 Middleton, Dutch Courtezan. 

* Commission given by Henry vitt. to the Earl of Hertford, 1544: ‘You are 
there to put all to fire and sword ; to burn Edinburgh town, and to raze and deface 
it, when you have sacked it, and gotten what you can out of it. . . . Do what you 
can out of hand, and without long tarrying, to beat down and overthrow the castle, 
sack Holyrood-House, and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as ye 
conveniently can ; sack Leith, and burn and subvert it, and all the rest, putting 
map, woman, and child to fire and sword, without exception, when any resistance 
shall be made against you ; and this done, pass over to the Fife land, and extend 
like extremities and destructions in all towns and villages whereunto ye may reach 
conveniently, not forgetting amongst all the rest, so to spoil and turn upside down 
the cardinal’s town of St Andrew's, as the upper stone may be the nether, and not one 
stick stand by another, sparing no creature alive within the same, specially such as 
either in friendship or blood be allied to the cardinal. This journey shall succeed 
most to his majesty’s honour.'—Pictorial History of England, ii. 440, note. 


228 THE RENAISSANCE, [Book 1, 


court frequents bear and bull baitings, where dogs are ripped up and 
chained beasts are sometimes beaten to death, and it was, says an officer 


of the palace, ‘a charming entertainment.’* _ No wonder they used their . 


arms like clodhoppers and gossips. Elizabeth used to beat her maids 
of honour, ‘so that these beautiful girls could often be heard crying 
and lamenting in a piteous manner.’ One day she spat upon Sir 
Mathew’s fringed coat; at another time, when Essex, whom she was 
scolding, turned his back, she gave him a box on the ears. It was then 
the practice of great ladies to beat their children and their servants. 
Poor Jane Grey was sometimes so wretchedly ‘ boxed, struck, pinched, 
and ill-treated in other manners which she dare not relate,’ that she 
used to wish herself dead. Their first idea is to come to words, to 
blows, to have satisfaction. As in feudal times, they appeal at once to 
arms, and retain the habit of gaining justice for themselves, and without 
delay. ‘On Thursday laste,’ writes Gilbert Talbot to the Earl and 
Countess of Shrewsbury, ‘as my Lorde Rytche was rydynge in the 
streates, there was one Wyndam that stode in a dore, and shotte a dagge 
at him, thynkynge to have slayne him... . The same daye, also, as Sr 
John Conway was goynge in the streetes, M’ Lodovyke Grevell came 
sodenly upon him, and stroke him on the hedd wa sworde. ... I am 
forced to trouble yo Honors w" thes tryflynge matters, for I know no 
greater.’* No one, not even the queen, is safe among these violent 
dispositions.* Again, when one man struck another in the precincts of 
the court, his hand was cut off, and the arteries stopped with a red-hot 
iron, Only such atrocious imitations of their own crimes, and the pain- 
ful image of bleeding and suffering flesh, could tame their vehemence 
and restrain the uprising of their instincts. Judge now what materials 
they furnish to the theatre, and what characters they look for at the 
theatre: to please the public, the stage cannot deal too much in open 
lust and the strongest passions; it must depict man attaining the limit 
of his desires, unchecked, almost mad, now trembling and rooted before 
the white palpitating flesh which his eyes devour, now haggard and 
grinding his teeth before the enemy whom he wishes to tear to pieces, 
now carried beyond himself and overwhelmed at the sight of the honours 
and wealth which he courts, always raging and enveloped in a tempest 
of eddying ideas, sometimes shaken by impetuous joy, more often on 
the verge of fury and madness, stronger, more ardent, more daringly 
let loose beyond the pale of reason and law than he himself ever was, 
We hear from the stage as from the history of the time, these fierce 
murmurs: the sixteenth century is like a den of lions. 

Amid passions so strong as these there is not one lacking. Nature 





1 Laneham, A Goodly Relief. 

2 13th February 1587. Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, ii. p. 166, 
See also the same work for all these details, 

3 Essex, when struck by the queen, put his hand on the hilt of his sword, ~ * 


! 


\ 





CHAP. IL] THE THEATRE. 229 


appears here in all its violence, but also in all its fulness. If nothing 
had been softened, nothing had been mutilated. It is the entire man 
who is displayed, heart, mind, body, senses, with his noblest and finest 
aspirations, as with his most bestial and savage appetites, without the 
preponderance of any dominant circumstance to cast him altogether in 
one direction, to exalt or degrade him. He has not become rigid, as 
he will be under Puritanism. He is not uncrowned, as in the Restora- 
tion, After the hollowness and weariness of the fifteenth century, he 
rose up by a second birth, as before in Greece man had risen by a first 
, birth; and now, as then, the temptations of the outer world came com- 
bined to raise his faculties from their sloth and torpor. A sort of 
generous warmth spread over them to ripen and make them flourish, 
Peace, prosperity, comfort began; new industries and increasing 
activity suddenly multiplied objects of utility and luxury tenfold, 
America and India, by their discovery, caused the treasures and pro- 
digies heaped up afar over distant seas to shine before their eyes ; 
antiquity re-discovered, sciences mapped out, the Reformation begun, 
books multiplied by printing, ideas by books, doubled the means of 
enjoyment, imagination, and thought. They wanted to enjoy, to ima- 
gine, and to think; for the desire grows with the attraction, and here 
all attractions were combined. There were attractions of the senses, 
in the chambers which they began to warm, in the beds newly fur- 
nished with pillows, in the carriages which they began to use for the 
first time. There were attractions for the imagination in the new 
palaces, arranged after the Italian manner; in the variegated hangings 
from Flanders; in the rich garments, gold-embroidered, which, being 
continually changed, combined the fancies and the splendours of all 
Europe. There were attractions for the mind, in the noble and beau- 
tiful writings which, spread abroad, translated, explained, brought in 
philosophy, eloquence, and poetry, from the restored antiquity, and 
from the surrounding Renaissance. Under this appeal all aptitudes 
and instincts at once started up; the low and the lofty, ideal and 
sensual love, gross cupidity and pure generosity. Recall what you 
yourself experienced, when from being a child you became a man: what 
wishes for happiness, what breadth of anticipation, what intoxication of 
heart you indulged in in face of all these joys; with what impulse your 
hands reached involuntarily and all at once every branch of the tree, 
and would not let a single fruit escape. At sixteen years, like Chérubin,' 
we wish for a servant girl while we adore a Madonna; we are capable 
of every species of covetousness, and also of every species of self- 
denial ; we find virtue more lovely, our meals more enjoyable ; pleasure 
has more zest, heroism more worth; there is no allurement which is 
not keen; the sweetness and novelty of things are too strong; and in 
the hive of passions which buzzes within us, and stings us like the sting 





2 A page in the Mariage de Figaro, a comedy by Beaumarchais.—Ta. 


230 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II, 


of a bee, we can do nothing but plunge, one after another, into all sen- 
sations. Such were the men of this time, Raleigh, Essex, Elizabeth, 
Henry vi. himself, excessive and inconstant, ready for devotion and 
for crime, violent in good and evil, heroic with strange weaknesses, 
humble with sudden changes of mood, never vile with premeditation 
like the roysterers of the Restoration, never rigid on principle like the 
Puritans of the Revolution, capable of weeping like children,! and of 
dying like men, often base courtiers, more than once true knights, 
displaying constantly, amidst all these contradictions of bearing, only 
the overflowing of nature. Thus prepared, they could take in every- 
thing, sanguinary ferocity and refined generosity, the brutality of 
shameless debauchery, and the most divine innocence of love. accept 
all the characters, prostitutes and virgins, princes and mountebanks, 
pass quickly from trivial buffoonery to lyrical sublimities, listen alter- 
nately to the quibbles of clowns and the songs of lovers. The drama 
even, in order to imitate and satisfy the prolixity of their nature, must 
take all tongues, pompous, inflated verse, loaded with imagery, and side 
by side with this, vulgar prose: more, it must distort its natural style 
and limits; put songs, poetical devices, in the discourse of courtiers 
and the speeches of statesmen; bring on the stage the fairy world of 
the opera, as Middleton says, gnomes, nymphs of the land and sea, with 
their groves and their meadows; compel the gods to descend upon the 
stage, and hell itself to furnish its world of marvels. Nc other theatre 
is so complicated; for nowhere else do we find men so complete. 


IIL. 


Tn this free and universal expansion, the passions had their special 
bent withal, which was an English one, inasmuch as they were English. 
After all, in every age, under every civilisation, a people is always 
itself. Whatever be its dress, goat-skin blouse, gold-laced doublet, 
black dress-coat, the five or six great instincts which it possessed in its 
forests, follow it in its palaces and offices. To this day, warlike passions, 
a gloomy humour, subsist under the regularity and comfort of modern 
manners,” Their native energy and harshness pierce through the per- 
fection of culture and the habits of comfort. Rich young men, on 
leaving Oxford, go to hunt bears in Canada, the elephant at the Cape 
of Good Hope, live under canvas, box, jump hedges on horseback, 
sail their clippers on dangerous coasts, delight in solitude and peril. 
The ancient Saxon, the old rover of the Scandinavian seas, have not 
perished. Even at school the children ill-treat one another, withstand 





1The great Chancellor Burleigh often wept, so harshly was he used by 
Elizabeth. 

* Compare, to understand this character, the parts assigned to James Harlowe 
by Richardson, old Osborne by Thackeray, Sir Giles Overreach by Massinger, and 
Manly by Wycherley. 








CHAP. I1.] TUE THEATRE. 231 


one another, fight like men; and their character is so indomitable, 
that they need the birch and blows to reduce them to the discipline 
of law. Judge what they were in the sixteenth century: the English 
race passed then for ‘the most warlike race’ of Europe, ‘the most 
redoubtable in battle, the most impatient of anything like slavery.’! 
‘English savages’ is what Cellini calls them; and the ‘great 
shins of beef’ with which they fill themselves, nourish the force and 
ferocity of their instincts. To harden them thoroughly, institutions 
work in the same groove with nature. The nation is armed, every 
man is brought up like a soldier, bound to have arms according to his 
condition, to exercise himself on Sundays or holidays; from the yeo- 
man to the lord, the old military constitution keeps them enrolled and 
ready for action.* In a state which resembles an army, it is necessary 
that punishments, as in an army, shall inspire terror; and to aggravate 
them, the hideous Wars of the Roses, which on every flaw of the suc- 
cession are ready to break out again, are ever present in their recollection. 
Such instincts, such a constitution, such a history, raises before them, 
with tragic severity, the idea of life: death is at hand, and wounds, the 
block, tortures, The fine cloaks of purple which the Renaissance of the 
South displayed joyfully in the sun, to wear like a holiday garment, are 
here stained with blood, and bordered with black. Throughout,’ a 
stern discipline, and the axe ready for every suspicion of treason: 
great men, bishops, a chancellor, princes, the king’s relatives, queens, 
a protector kneeling in the straw, sprinkled the Tower with their blood; 
one after the other they marched past, stretched out their necks; the 
Duke of Buckingham, Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine Howard, 
the Earl of Surrey, Admiral Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, Lady Jane 
Grey and her husband, the Duke of Northumberland, Mary Stuart, the 
Earl of Essex, all on the throne, or on the steps of the throne, in the 
highest rank of honours, beauty, youth, and genius: of the bright 
procession nothing is left but senseless trunks, marred by the tender 
mercies of the executioner. Shall I count the funeral pyres, the hang- 
ings, living men cut down from the gibbet, disembowelled, quartered,* 
their limbs cast into the fire, their heads exposed on the walls? There 
is a page in Holinshed which reads like a death register: 

‘The five and twentith daie of Maie (1535), was in saint Paules church at London 
examined nineteene men and six women born in Holland, whose opinions were 
(heretical). Fourteene of them were condemned, a man and a woman of them were 





1 Hentzner’s Travels ; Benvenuto Cellini. See passim, the costumes printed 
in Venice and Germany; Bellicosissimi, Froude, i. pp. 19, 52. 

* This is not so true of the English now, if it was in the sixteenth century, as 
it is of continental nations. eet eS oo character 
than English schools. —Tr. 

3 Froude’s Hist. of England, vols. i. ii. iii. 

or eee 
Strype, iii. 251. 





232 THE RENAISSANCE. [BooxK It, 


burned in Smithfield; the other twelve were sent- to other townes, there to be burnt, 
On the nineteenth of June were three moonkes of the Charterhouse hanged, drawne, 
and quartered at Tiburne, and their heads and quarters set up about London, for 
denieng the king to be supreme head of the church. Also the one and twentith 
of the same moneth, and for the same cause, doctor John Fisher, bishop of 
Rochester, was beheaded for denieng of the supremacie, and his head set upon 
London bridge, but his bodie buried within Barking churchyard. The pope had 
elected him a cardinall, and sent his hat as far as Calis, but his head was off before 
his hat was on: so that they met not. On the sixt of Julie was Sir Thomas Moore 
beheaded for the like crime, that is to wit, for denieng the king to be supreme 
head’? | 

None of these murders secm extraordinary; the chroniclers mention 
them without growing indignant; the condemned go quietly to the 
block, as if the thing were perfectly natural. Anne Boleyn said 
seriously, before giving up her head to the executioner: ‘I praie God 
save the king, and send him long to reigne over you, for a gentler, nor 
a more mercifull prince was there never.’* Society is, as it were, in a 
state of siege, so strained that beneath the idea of order every one enter- 
tained the idea of the scaffold. ‘They saw it, the terrible machine, 
planted on all the highways of human life; and the byways as well as 
the highways led to it. A sort of martial law, introduced by conquests 
into civil affairs, entered thence into ecclesiastical matters,* and social 
economy ended by being enslaved by it. As in a camp,* expenditure, 
dress, the food of each class, are fixed and restricted ; no one might stray 
out of his district, be idle, live after his own devices. Every stranger 
was seized, interrogated; if he could not give a good account of him- 
self, the parish-stocks bruised his limbs, as in a regiment he passed for 
a spy andanenemy. Any person, says the law,® found living idly or 
loiteringly for the space of three days, shall be marked with a hot iron 
on his breast, and adjudged as a slave to the man who shall inform 
against him. This one ‘shall take the same slave, and give him bread, 
water, or small drink, and refuse meat, and cause him to work, by 
beating, chaining, or otherwise, in such work and labour as he shall 
put him to, be it never so vile.’ He may sell him, bequeath him, let 
him out for hire, or trade upon him ‘ after the like sort as they may do 
of any other their moveable goods or chattels,’ put a ring of iron about 
his neck or leg; if he runs away and absents himself for fourteen days, 
he is branded on the forehead with a hot iron, and remains a slave 
for the whole of his life; if he runs away a second time, he is put to 
death. Sometimes, says More, you might see a score of thieves hung 


on the same gibbet. In one year ° forty persons were put to death in. 


the county of Somerset alone, and in each county there were three or 





2 Holinshed, Chronicles of England, iii, p. ‘798, 2 bid. iii. p. 797. 
2 Under Henry tv. and Henry v. * Froude, i. 15, 
*In 1547, Pict. History, ii. 467, 

* In 1596. Pict. History, ii, 907, 





— 





























cmap. 1] ° TRE THEATRE, - 233 


four hundred vagabonds who would gather together and rob in armed 
bands of sixty at atime. Follow the whole of this history closely, the 
fires of Mary, the pillories of Elizabeth, and it is plain that the moral 
tone of the land, like its physical condition, is harsh by comparison 
with all its neighbours. They have no relish in their enjoyments, as 
in Italy; what is called Merry England is England given up to animal 
ecstasy, @ coarse animation produced by abundant feeding, continued 
prosperity, courage, and self-reliance ; voluptuousness does not exist 
in this climate and this race. Mingled with the beautiful popular 
beliefs, the lugubrious dreams and the cruel nightmare of witchcraft 
make their appearance. Bishop Jewell, preaching before the queen, 
tells her that witches and sorcerers within these few last years are 
marvellously increased. Some ministers assert 


‘That they have had in their parish at one instant, xvij or xviij witches; 
meaning such as could worke miracles supernaturallie ; that they work spells by 
which men pine away even unto death, their colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, 
their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft ; that instructed by the devil, 
they make ointments of the bowels and members of children, whereby they 
ride in the aire, and accomplish all their desires. When a child is not baptized, 
or defended by the sign of the cross, then the witches catch them from their 
mothers sides in the night... kill them... or after buriall steale them out of 
their graves, and seeth them in a caldron, until their flesh be made potable. .. . 
It is an infallible rule, that everie fortnight, or at the least everie moneth, each 
witch must kill one child at the least for hir part.’ 


_ Here was something to make the teeth chatter with fright. Add 
to this revolting and absurd description, wretched tomfooleries, details 
about the infernal cauldron, all the nastinesses which could haunt the 
trivial imagination of a hideous and drivelling old woman, and you have 
the spectacles, provided by Middleton and Shakspeare, and which suit 
the sentiments of the age and the national humour. The fundamental 
gloom pierces through the glow and rapture of poetry. Mournfal 
legends have multiplied; every churchyard has its ghost; wherever a 
man has been murdered his spirit appears. Many dare not leave their 
village after sunset. In the evening, before bed-time, people talk of the 
coach which is seen drawn by headless horses, with headless postilions 
and coachmen, or of unhappy spirits who, compelled to inhabit the 
plain, under the sharp north-east wind, pray for the shelter of a hedge 
or a valley. They dream terribly of death : 
& *To die, and go we know not where ; 

To lie in cold obstruction and to rot ; 

This sensible warm motion to become 

A kneaded clod ; and the delighted spirit 

To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside 

In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice; 

To be imprison’d in the viewless winds, 

And blown with restless violence round about 
“ The pendent world ; or to be worse than worst 





934 THE RENAISSANCE, [Book 1 


Of those that lawless and incertain thought 
Imagine howling: ’tis too horrible !’? 
The greatest speak with a sad resignation of the infinite obscurity 
which embraces our poor, short, glimmering life, our life, which is but 
a troubled dream ;* the sad state of humanity, which is but passion, 
madness, and sorrow; the human being who is himself, perhaps, but a 
vain phantom, a grievous sick man’s dream. In their eyes we roll 
down a fatal slope, where chance dashes us one against the other, and 
the destiny which drives us, only shatters after it has blinded us. And 
at the end of all is ‘the silent grave, no conversation, no joyful tread 
of friends, no voice of lovers, no careful father’s counsel; nothing’s 
heard, nor nothing is, but all oblivion, dust, and endless darkness,’* 
If yet there were nothing, ‘to die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to 
dream,’ To dream sadly, to fall into a nightmare like the nightmare 
of life, like that in which we are struggling and crying to-day, panting 
with hoarse throat!—this is their idea of man and of existence, the 
national idea, which fills the stage with calamities and despair, which 
makes a display of tortures and massacres, which abounds in folly and 
crime, which holds up death as the issue throughout. A threatening 
and sombre fog veils their mind like their sky, and joy, like the sun, 
only pierces through it, and upon them, strongly and at intervals. 
They are different from the Latin race, and in the common Renaissance 
they are regenerated otherwise than the Latin races. The free and full 
development of the pure nature which, in Greece and Italy, ends in the 


painting of beauty and happy energy, ends here in the painting of . 


ferocious energy, agony, and death. 
Lv, 


Thus was this theatre produced; a theatre unique in history, like 
the admirable and fleeting epoch from which it sprang, the work and 
the picture of this young world, as natural, as unshackled, and as tragic 
. es itself. When an original and national drama springs up, the poets 

who establish it, carry in themselves the sentiments which it represents. 
They display better than other men the public spirit, because the public 
spirit is stronger in them than in other men. The passions which sur- 
round them, break forth in their heart with a harsher or a juster cry; 
and hence their voices become the voices of all. Chivalric and Catholic 
Spain had her interpreters in her enthusiasts and her Don Quixotes: 
in Calderon, first a soldier, afterwards a priest; in Lope de Vega, a 
volunteer at fifteen, a passionate lover, a wandering duellist, a soldier 





? Shakspeare, Measure for Measure, Act iii. 1, See also The Tempest, Hamlet, 
Macbeth. 
2 ¢ We are such stuff 
As dreams are made on, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep.’"—Tempest, iv. 1. 
’ Beaumont and Fletcher, Thierry and Theodoret, Act iy. 1. 








i belt tl i ee, eg 


CHAP, IL] THE THEATRE. 235 


of the Armada, finally, a priest and familiar of the Holy Office; so 
ardent that he fasts till he is exhausted, faints with emotion while 
singing mass, and in his flagellations stains the walls of his cell with 
blood. Calm and noble Greece had in her principal tragic poet one of 
the most accomplished and fortunate of her sons: Sophocles, first in 
song and palestra; who at fifteen sang, unclad, the pwan before the 
trophy of Salamis, and who afterwards, as ambassador, general, ever 
loving the gods and impassioned for his state, offered, in his life as in — 
his works, the spectacle of the incomparable harmony which made the 
beauty of the ancient world, and which the modern world will never 
more attain to. Eloquent and worldly France, in the age which carried 
the art of decency and conversation to its highest pitch, finds, to unite 
her oratorical tragedies and to paint her drawing-room passions, the 
most able craftsman of words: Racine, a courtier, a man of the world; 
the most capable, by the delicacy of his tact and the adaptation of his 
style, of making men of the world and courtiers speak. Equally in 
. England the poets are in harmony with their works. Almost all are 
Bohemians, born of the people,* yet educated, and for the most part. 
having studied at Oxford or Cambridge, but poor, so that their educa- 
tion contrasts with their condition. Ben Jonson is the step-son of a 
bricklayer, and himself a bricklayer; Marlowe is the son of a shoe- 
maker; Shakspeare of a woollen merchant; Massinger of a servant.* 
They live as they can, get into debt, write for their bread, go on the 
stage. Peele, Lodge, Marlowe, Jonson, Shakspeare, Heywood, are 
actors; most of the details which we have of their lives are taken from 
the journal of Henslowe, an old pawnbroker, later a money-lender and 
manager of a theatre, who gives them work, advances money to them, 
receives their manuscripts or their wardrobes as security. For a play 
he gives seven or eight pounds; after the year 1600 prices rise, and 
reach as high as twenty or twenty-five pounds. It is clear that, even 
after this increase, the trade of author scarcely brings in bread. In 
order to earn money, it was necessary, like Shakspeare, to become a 
manager, to try to have a share in the property of a theatre; but the 
case is rare, and the life which they lead, a life of comedians and 
actors, improvident, full of excess, lost amid debauchery and acts of 
violence, amidst women of evil fame, in contact with young profligates, 
in provocations and misery, imagination and licence, generally leads 





1 paworidn Bi iv ease) nal wy) wadairrpar wal povernds, IF dx duperipan leripavcta 
oo + RAabnvasrares xa) befidhs.—SCHOLIAST. 
' 2 Except Beaumont and Fletcher. 

3 Hartley Coleridge, in his Introduction to the Dramatic Works of Massinger 
and Ford, says of Massinger’s father : ‘ We are not certified in the situation which 
he held in the noble household (Earl of Pembroke), but we may be sure that it 
was neither menial nor mean. Service in those days was not derogatory to gentle 
birth.’—Tr. 








236 THE RENAISSANCE. ‘ [Book It, 


them to exhaustion, poverty, and death. Men received enjoyment from 
them, and neglected and despised them. One actor, for a political allu- 
sion, was sent to prison, and only just escaped losing his ears ; great men, 
men in office, abused them like servants. Heywood, who played almost 
every day, bound himself, in addition, to write a sheet daily, composes 
wretchedly in the taverns, labours and sweats like a true literary hack, 
and dies leaving two hundred and twenty pieces, of which most are 
lost. Kyd, one of the first, died in misery. Shirley, one of the last, 
.at the end of his career, was obliged to become again a schoolmaster. 
Massinger dies unknown ; and in the parish register we find only this 
sad mention of him: ‘ Philip Massinger, a stranger.’ A few months 
after the death of Middleton, his widow was obliged to ask alms of the 
City, because he had left nothing. Imagination, as Drummond said 
of Ben Jonson, oppressed their reason; it is the common failing of 
poets. They wish to enjoy, and give themselves wholly up to enjoy- 
ments; their mood, their heart governs them; in their life, as in their 
works, impulses are irresistible; desire comes suddenly, like a wave, 
drowning reason, resistance—often even giving neither reason nor re- 
sistance time to show themselves,’ Many are roysterers, sad roysterers 
of the same sort, as Musset and Murger, who give themselves up to 
every passion, and shake off restraint; capable of the purest and most 
poetic dreams, of the most delicate and touching tenderness, and who 
yet can only undermine their health and mar their glory. Such are 
Nash, Decker, and Greene; Nash, a fanciful satirist, who abused his 
talent, and conspired like a prodigal against good fortune; Decker, who 
passed three years in the King’s Bench prison; Greene, above all, a 
pleasing wit, rich, graceful, who gave himself up to all pleasures, 
publicly with tears confessing his vices,? and the next moment plung- 
ing into them again, These are mere androgynes, simple courtesans, _ 
in manners, body, and heart. Quitting Cambridge, ‘ with good fellows 
as free-living as himself,’ Greene had travelled over Spain, Italy, ‘ 
which places he sawe and practizde such villainie as is abhominable to 
declare.’ You see the poor man is candid, not sparing himself; he is 
natural; passionate in everything, repentance or otherwise; eminently _ 
inconstant ; made for self-contradiction, not self-correction. On his re- 
turn he became, in London, a supporter of taverns, a haunter of evil 
places. In his Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance 
he says: 





1 See, amongst others, Zhe Woman Killed with Kindness, by Heywood. Mrs. 
Frankfort, so upright of heart, accepts Wendoll at his first offer. Sir Francis. 
Acton, at the sight of her whom he wishes to dishonour, and whom he hates, falls 
‘into an ecstasy,’ and dreams of nothing save marriage. Compare the sudden trans- 
port of Juliet, Romeo, Macbeth, Miranda, etc.; the counsel of Prospero to Fernando, 
when he leaves him alone for a moment with Miranda. 

* Compare La Vie de Bohéme and Les Nuits d'Hiver, by meee Confese 
sion d'un Enfant du Siécle, by A. de Musset, 





CHAP, II] TUE THEATRE, 237 


*I was dround in pride, whoredom was my daily exercise, and gluttony with 
drunkenness was my onely delight... . After I had wholly betaken me to the 
penning of plaies (which was my continual! exercise), I was so far from 
upon God that I sildome thought on God, but tooke such delight in swearing and 
blaspheming the name of God that none could thinke otherwise of me than that 
1 was the child of perdition. These vanities and other trifling pamphlets I penned 
of love and vaine fantasies was my chiefest stay of living ; and for those my vaine 
discourses I was beloved of the more vainer sort of people, who being my continaall 
companions, came still to my lodging, and there would continue quafling, carows- 
ing, and surfeting with me all the day long. . . . If I may have my disire while 
I live I am satisfied ; let me shift after death as I may... . ** Hell!” quoth I; 
“what talke you of hell tome? I know if I once come there I shall have the 
company of better men than myselfe ; I shal also meete with some madde knaves 
in that place, and so long as I shall not sit there alone, my care is the lease. . . . 
If I feared the judges of the bench no more than I dread the judgments of God, I 
would before I slept dive into one carles bagges or other, and make merrie with the 
shelles I found in them so long as they would last.”’ 


A little later he is seized with remorse, marries, depicts in delicious 
lines the regularity and calm of an upright life ; then returns to London, 
devours his property and his wife's fortune with ‘a sorry ragged 
queane,’ in the company of ruffians, pimps, sharpers, courtesans ; drink- 
ing, blaspheming, wearing himself out by sleepless nights and orgies ; 
writing for bread sometimes amid the brawling and effluvia of his 
wretched lodging, lighting upon thoughts of adoration and love, worthy 
of Rolla;* very often disgusted with himself, seized with a fit of weep- 
ing between two alehouses, and writing little pieces to accuse him- 
self, to regret his wife, to convert his comrades, or to warn young 
people against the tricks of prostitutes and swindlers, By this process 
he was soon worn out; six years were enough to exhaust him. An 
indigestion arising from Rhenish wine and pickled herrings finished him. 
If it had not been for his hostess, who succoured him, he ‘ would have 
perished in the streets.’ He lasted a little longer, and then his light 
went out; now and then he begged her ‘ pittifully for a penny pott 
_ of malmesie;’ he was covered with lice, he had but one shirt, and 
when his own was ‘a washing,’ he was obliged to borrow her husband's, 
* His doublet and hose and sword were sold for three shillinges,’ and the 
poor folks paid the cost of his burial, four shillings for the winding- 
sheet, and six and fourpence for the burial. In such low places, on 
such dunghills, amid such excesses and violence, dramatic genius forced 
its way, and amongst others, that of the first, of the most powerful, of 
the true founder of the dramatic school, Christopher Marlowe. 
Marlowe was an ill-regulated, dissolute, outrageously vehement 
and audacious spirit, but grand and sombre, with the genuine poetic 
frenzy; pagan moreover, and rebellious in manners and creed. In 
this universal return to the senses, and in this impulse of natural forces 


which brought on the Renaissance, the corporeal instincts and the ideas 
4 The hero of one of Alfred de Musset’s poems.—Tx, 





238 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK It. 





which give them their warrant, break forth impetuously. Marlowe, 
like Greene, like Kett,’ is a sceptic, denies God and Christ, blasphemes 
the Trinity, declares Moses ‘a juggler,’ Christ more worthy of death 
than Barabbas, says that ‘yf he wer to write a new religion, he wolde 
undertake both a more excellent and more admirable methode,’ and 
‘almost in every company he commeth, perswadeth men to Athiesme.’? 
Such were the rages, the rashnesses, the excesses which liberty of 
thought gave rise to in these new minds, who for the first time, after 
so many centuries, dared to walk unfettered. From his father’s shop, 
crowded with children, from the stirrups and awls, he found himself at 
Cambridge, probably through the patronage of a great man, and on his 
return to London, in want, amid the licence of the green-room, the 
low houses and taverns, his head was in a ferment, and his passions 
were heated. He turned actor ; but having broken his leg in a scene 
of debauchery, he remained lame, and could no longer appear on the 
boards. He openly avowed his infidelity, and a prosecution was begun, 
which, if time had not failed, would probably have brought him to 
the stake. He made love toa drab, and trying to stab his rival, his 
hand was turned, so that his own blade entered his eye and his brain, 
and he died, still cursing and blaspheming. He was only thirty years 
old. Think what poetry could emanate from a life so passionate, and 
occupied in such a manner! First, exaggerated declamation, heaps of 
murder, atrocities, a pompous and furious display of tragedy soaked in 
blood, and passions raised to a pitch of madness. All the foundations 
of the English stage, Ferrex and Porrex, Cambyses, Hieronymo, even 
the Pericles of Shakspeare, reach, the same height of extravagance, 
force, and horror.® It is the first outbreak of youth. Recall Schiller’s 
Robbers, and how modern democracy has recognised for the first time 
its picture in the metaphors and cries of Charles Moor.* So here the 
characters struggle and jostle, stamp on the earth, gnash their teeth, - 
shake their fists against heaven. The trumpets sound, the drums beat, 
coats of mail file past, armies clash together, men stab each other, or 
themselves ; speeches are full of gigantic threats or lyrical figures ;° 





1 Burnt in 1589. 

? The translator always refers to Marlowe’s Works, ed. Dyce, 3 vols., 1850. 
Append. i. vol. 3. 

% See especially Titus Andronicus, attributed to Shakspeare: there are parri- 
cides, mothers whom they cause to eat their children, a young girl who appears on 
the stage violated, with her tongue and hands cut off. 

‘ The chief character in Schiller’s Robbers, a virtuous brigand and redresser 
of wrongs.—TR. 

6 For in a field, whose superficies 
Is cover’d with a liquid purple veil, 
And sprinkled with the brains of slaughter’d men, 
My royal chair of state shall be advanc’d ; 
And he that means to place himself therein, 








THE THEATRE. 239 


















kings die, straining a bass voice ; ‘now doth ghastly death with greedy 
talons gripe my bleeding heart, and like a harpy tires on my life.’ The 
hero in the Great’ is seated on a chariot drawn by chained 
kings, burns towns, drowns women and children, puts men e 
sword, and finally, seized with an invisible sickness, raves in m 
outeries against the gods, whose hands afflict his soul, and whom he 
would fain dethrone. There already is the picture of senseless pride, 
of blind and murderous rage, which passing through many devasta- 
tions, at last arms against heaven itself. The overflowing of savage 
and immoderate instinct produces this mighty sounding verse, this 
prodigality of carnage, this display of overloaded splendours and 
colours, this railing of demoniac passions, this audacity of grand im- 
piety. If in the dramas which succeed it, The Massacre at Paris, The 
Jew of Malta, the bombast decreases, the violence remains. Barabas 
the Jew, maddened with hate, is thenceforth no longer human; he has 
been treated by the Christians like a beast, and he hates them like a 
beast. He advises his servant Ithamore in the following words: 


* Hast thou no trade? then listen to my words, 

And I will teach thee that shall stick by thee : 

First, be thou void of these affections, 

Compassion, love, vain hope, and heartless fear ; 

Be mov'd at nothing, see thou pity none, 

But to thyself smile when the Christians moan. 
. « « I walk abroad a-nights, 

And kill sick people groaning under walls: — 

Sometimes I go about and poison wells. . . 

Being young, I studied physic, and began 

To practise first upon the Italian ; 

There I enrich’d the priests with burials, 

And always kept the sexton’s arms in ure 

With digging graves and ringing dead men’s knells. . . « 

I fill’d the jails with bankrouts in a year, 

And with young orphans planted hospitals ; 

And every moon made some or other mad, 

And now and then one hang himself for grief, 

Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll 

How I with interest tormented him."* 





Must armed wade up to the chin in blood. . . . 

And I would strive to swim through pools of blooil, 

Or make a bridge of murder’d carcasses, 

Whose arches should be fram'd with bones of Turks, 

Ps Ere I would lose the title of a king.—Tamburlaine, part ii. i. 3. 

_ ™The editor of Marlowe's Works, Pickering, 1826, says in his Introduction : 
‘Both the matter and style of Tamburlaine, however, differ materially from 
Marlowe's other compositions, and doubts have more than once been suggested as 
_ to whether the play was properly assigned to him. We think that Marlowe did 
not write it.’ Dyce is of a contrary opinion.—Tar. 

_—- 8 Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, ii. p, 275 et passim, 


ae eee ee oe ae 





240 THE RENAISSANCE, 


All these cruelties he boasts of and chuckles over, like a demon who re- 
joices in being a good executioner, and plunges his victims in the very 
extremity of anguish, His daughter has two Christian suitors; and by 
forged letters he causes them to slay each other. In despair she takes 
the veil, and to avenge himself he poisons his daughter and the whole 
convent. Two friars wish to denounce him, then to convert him; he 
strangles the first, and jokes with his slave Ithamore, a cut-throat by 
profession, who loves his trade, rubs his hands with joy, and says; 
* Pull amain, 
’Tis neatly done, sir; here’s no print at all. 
So, let him lean upon his staff ; excellent! he stands as if 
he were begging of bacon.’! 
£ O mistress, I have the bravest, gravest, secret, subtle, bottle- 
nosed knave to my master, that ever gentleman had.” 


The second friar comes up, and they accuse him of the murder; 


* Barabas. Heaven bless me! what, a friar a murderer } 
When shall you see a Jew commit the like ? 
lthamore. Why, a Turk could ha’ done no more, 
Bar. To-morrow is the sessions ; you shall to it— 
Come Ithamore, let’s help to take him hence. 
friar, Villains, I am a sacred person ; touch me not, 
Bar. The law shall touch you; we'll but lead you, we: 
"Las, I could weep at your calamity !’% 
Add to that two other poisonings, an infernal machine to ‘ile up 
the Turkish garrison, a plot to cast the Turkish commander in a well, 
Barabas falls into it himself, and dies in the hot cauldron,‘ howling, 
hardened, remorseless, having but one regret, that he had not done evil 
enough. These are the ferocities of the middle-age; we might find 
them to this day among the companions of Ali Pacha, among the pirates 
of the Archipelago; we retain pictures of them in the paintings of the 
fifteenth century, which represent a king with his court, seated calmly 
round a living man who is being flayed; in the midst the flayer on 
his knees is working conscientiously, very careful not to spoil the skin.® 
All this is rough work, you will say; these people kill too readily, 
and too quickly. It is on this very account that the painting is a true 
one. For the specialty of the men of the time, as of Marlowe's cha- 
racters, is the abrupt commission of a deed; they are children, robust 
children. As a horse kicks out instead of speaking, so they pull out 
their knives instead of an explanation. Nowadays we hardly know 
what nature is; we still keep in its place the benevolent prejudices of 
the eighteenth century; we only see it humanised by two centuries of 
culture, and we take its acquired calm for an innate moderation. _The 
foundation of the natural man are irresistible impulses, passions, desires, 





"3 The Jew of Maita, iv. p. 811. —* Ibid. iii. p. 291. 8 Ibid. iy. p. 313, 
4 Up to this time, in England, poisoners were cast into a boiling onli 
5 Ju the Museum of Ghent, 






























THE THEATRE. 241 
grees 0h Mind SA a women," tilelo hor beantibels suddenly 
he rushes towards her; people try to restrain him, he kills these people, 
gluts his passion, then thinks no more of it, save when at times a vague 
picture of a moving lake of blood crosses his brain and makes him 
ar Sudden and extreme resolves are confused in his mind with 

barely conceived of, the thing is done; the wide interval which 
a Frenchman places between the idea of an action and the action itself 
is not to be found here.* Barabas conceived murders, and straightway 
murders were accomplished ; there is no deliberation, no pricks of con- 
science; that is how he commits a score of them; his daughter leaves 
him, he becomes unnatural, and poisons her ; his confidential servant 
betrays him, he disguises himself, and poisons him, Rage seizes these 
men like a fit, and then they are forced to kill. Benvenuto Cellini 
relates how, being offended, he tried to restrain himself, but was nearl 
suffocated ; and that he might not die of the torments, he rushed with 
his dagger upon his opponent. So, in Edward IT, the nobles immediately 
appeal to arms; all is excessive and unforeseen ; ‘between two replies the 
heart is turned upside down, transported to the extremes of hate or 
tenderness. Edward, seeing his favourite Gaveston again, pours out 
before him his treasure, casts his dignities at his feet, gives him his seal, 
himself, and, on a threat from the Bishop of Coventry, suddenly cries: 
‘Throw off his golden mitre, rend his stole, 
And in the channel christen him anew.** 
Then, when the queen supplicates : 
*Fawn not on me, French strumpet! get thee gone... 
Speak not unto her: let her droop and pine.’* 
Furies and hatreds clash together like horsemen in a battle. The Duke 
of Lancaster draws his sword on Gaveston to slay him, before the king; 
Mortimer wounds Gaveston. These powerful loud voices growl; the 
noblemen will not even let a dog approach the prince, and rob them of 
their rank. Lancaster says of Gaveston: 

. « « He comes not back, 
Unless the sea cast up his shipwrack’d body. 

Warwick. And to behold so sweet a sight as that, 

There’s none here but would run his horse to death.’ * 


They have seized Gaveston, and intend to hang him ‘at a bough ;’ they 
refuse to let him speak a single minute with the king. In vain they 





1 See in the Jew of Malta the seduction of Ithamore, by Bellamira, a rough, 
but truly admirable picture. 

2 Nothing could be falser than Schiller's William Tell, his hesitation and argu- 
ments ; for a contrast, see Goethe's Goets von Berlichingen. In 1377, Wiclif pleaded 
in St. Paul’s before the Bishop of London, and that raised a quarrel. The Duke of 
Lancaster, Wiclif's protector, ‘threatened to drag the bishop out of the church by the 
hair ;" and next day the furious crowd sacked the duke's palace. Pict. Hist. i, 780. 
* Marlowe, Edward the Second, i. p. 173.  * Jbid. p. 186.  —* Ibid. p, 188. 

w 


242 (- THE RENAISSANCE. [BooK I, 


are entreated; when they do at last consent, they recall their promise; 
it is a prey they want immediately, and Warwick, seizing him by force, 
‘ strake off his headin atrench.’ Those are the men of the middle- 
age. They have the fierceness, the rage, the pride of big, well-fed, 
thorough-bred bull-dogs. It is this sternness and impetuosity of 
primitive passions which produced the Wars of the Roses, and for 
thirty years drove the nobles on each other’s swords and to the block. — 
What is there beyond all these frenzies and gluttings of blood? 

The idea of crushing necessity and inevitable ruin in which everything 
- sinks and comes to an end. Mortimer, brought to the block, says with 
a smile: 

* Base Fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel 

There is a point, to which when men aspire, 

They tumble headlong down: that point I touch’d, 

And, seeing there was no place to mount up higher, 

Why should I grieve at my declining fall ?— 

Farewell, fair queen ; weep not for Mortimer, 

That scorns the world, and, as a traveller, 

Goes to discover countries yet unknown.’? 


Weigh well these grand words; they are a cry from the heart, the pro- 
found confession of Marlowe, as also of Byron, and of the old sea-kings. 
The northern paganism is fully expressed in this heroic and mournful 
sigh; it is thus they imagine the world so long as they remain on the 
outside of Christianity, or as soon as they quit it. So also, when they 
see in life but a battle of unchecked passions, and in death but a gloomy 
sleep, perhaps filled with mournful dreams, there is no other supreme 
good but a day of joy and victory. They glut themselves, shutting 
their eyes to the issue, except that they may be swallowed up on the 
morrow. That is the master-thought of Doctor Faustus, the greatest of 
Marlowe's dramas; to satisfy his soul, no matter at what price, or with 
what results: 

* A sound magician is a mighty god.... 

How I am glutted with conceit of this! ... 

I'll have them fly to India for gold, : 

Ransack the ocean for orient pearl... . 

T’'ll have them read me strange philosophy, 

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings ; 

T’'ll have them wall all Germany with brass, 

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wertenberg. ... 

Like lions shall they guard us when we please ; 

Like Almain rutters with their horsemen’s staves, 

Or Lapland giants, trotting by our sides ; 

Sometimes like women, or unwedded maids, 

Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows 

Than have the white breasts of the queen of love.’ 





1 Edward the Second, last scene, p. 288, 
* Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, i. p. 9 et passim, 






“THE TREATRE. 243 


What brilliant dreams, what desires, what vast or voluptuous wishes, 
of a Roman Cesar or an eastern poet, eddy in this teeming 
brain! To satiate them, to obtain four-and-twenty years of power, 
gives his soul, without fear, without need of temptation, at 
the first outset, voluntarily, so sharp is the prick within: 
* Had I as many souls as there be stars, 
I’d give them all for Mephistophilis, 
By him I'll be great emperor of the world, 
And make a bridge thorough the moving air... . 
¥ Why shouldst thou not? Is not thy soul thy own?’! 
And with that he gives himself full swing: he wants to know every- 
_ thing, to have everything; a book in which he can behold all herbs 
and trees which grow upon the earth; another in which shall be drawn 
all the constellations and planets; another which shall bring him gold 
when he wills it, and ‘ the fairest courtezans ;’' another which summons 
‘men in armour’ ready to execute his commands, and which holds 
‘thunder, whirlwinds, thunder and lightning’ chained at his disposal. 
He is like a child, he stretches out his hands for everything shining; 
then grieves to think of hell, then lets himself be diverted by shows: 
* Faustus. O, this feeds my soul! 
Lucifer. Tut, Faustus, in hell is all manner of delight. 
Faustus, Ob, might I see hell, and return again, 
How happy were I then!’ .. .* 
He is conducted, being invisible, over the whole world; lastly to 
Rome, amongst the ceremonies of the Pope’s court. Like a schoolboy 
during a holiday, he has insatiable eyes, he forgets everything before 
@ pageant, he amuses himself in playing tricks, in giving the Pope a 
box on the ear, in beating the monks, in performing magic tricks 
before princes, finally in drinking, feasting, filling his belly, deadening 
his thoughts. In his transport he becomes an atheist, and says there 
is no hell, that those are ‘old wives’ talgs.’ Then suddenly the sad 
idea knocks at the gates of his brain: 
‘I will renounce this magic, and repent. . . 
My heart's so harden'd, 1 cannot repent: 
Scarce can 1 name salvation, faith, or heaven, 
But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears, 
“ Faustus, thou art damn’d!” then swords, and knives, 
Poison, guns, halters, and envenom'd steel 
Are laid before me to despatch myself, 


Had not sweet pleasure conquer’d deep despair, 
Have not I made blind Homer sing to me 

Of Alexander's love and (non's death ? 

And hath not he, that built the walls of Thebes 
es eating vend a ee 
Made music with my 


. Way auseld Y i taunts anly Ga 
1 Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, i. pp. 22, 29. * [bid. p. 43. 


‘<< 









c- ”- } ae _— = | 
= > Nels Se % 


‘ 


244 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK IL. 





I am resoly’d ; Faustus shall ne’er repent.— 
Come Mephistophilis, let us dispute again, 


And argue of divine astrology. 
Tell me, are there many heavens above the moon ? 
Are all celestial bodies but one globe, 
As is the substance of this centric earth? . . .’? 
* One thing . . . let me crave of thee 


To glut the longing of my heart’s desire. . . . 
Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, 
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium ? 

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss! 

Her lips suck forth my soul : see, where it flies !— 
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. 

Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, 

And all is dross that is not Helena. ... 

O thou art fairer than the evening air 

Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars !’? 


‘Ah, my God, I would weep! but the devil draws in my tears. 
Gush forth blood, instead of tears! yea, life and soul! Oh, he stays 
my tongue! I would lift up my hands; but see, they hold them, they 
hold them; Lucifer and Mephistophilis.’ . . .* 
‘Ah, Faustus, 

Now hast thou but one bare hour to live, 

And then thou must be damn’d perpetually ! 

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven, 

That time may cease, and midnight never come... . 

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike, 

The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d. 

Oh, I'll leap up to my God !—Who pulls me down ?— 

See, see, where Christ’s blood streams im the firmament! 

One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ, 

Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ! 

Yet will I call on him. ... 

Ah, half the hour i@past! ‘twill all be past anon... . 

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years, 

A hundred thousand, and at last be sav’d. ... 

It strikes, it strikes. ... 

Oh soul, be chang’d into little water-drops, 

And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found !’* 
There is the living, struggling, natural, personal man, not the philo- 
sophie fype which. Goethe has created, but a primitive and genuine 
man, hot-headed, fiery, the slave of his passions, the sport of his 
dreams, wholly engrossed in the present, moulded by his lusts, con- 
tradictions, and follies, who amidst noise and starts, cries of pleasure 
and anguish, rolls, knowing it and willing it, down the slope and crags 
of his precipice. The whole English drama is here, as a plant in its 
seed, and Marlowe is to Shakspeare what Perugino was to Raphael. 





1 Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, p. 87. * Ibid. p.75. *Ibid.p.78. * Jbid, p. 80. 





a ye “4 i Os ae — } sf, -' s <P) 
: 


THE THEATRE. 245 


8 V. 
© \ Insensibly art is being formed ; and toward the close of the century 
Y \ it is complete. Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Jonson, Webster, 
} Massinger, Ford, Middleton, Heywood, appear together, or close upon 
~ each other, a new and favoured generation, flourishing largely in the 
soil fertilised by the efforts of the generation which preceded them. 
Thenceforth the scenes are developed and assume consistency; the 
characters cease to move by clockwork, the drama is no longer like a 
ece of statuary. The poet who just before knew only how to strike or 
ew introduces now a sequence of situation and a rationale in intrigue, 
He begins to prepare the way for sentiments, to forewarn us of events, 
to combine effects, and we find a theatre at last, the most complete, 
the most life-like, and also the most strange that ever existed. 
We must follow its formation, and regard the drama on the ground 
where it was formed, namely, in the mind of its authors, What was 
going on in these minds? What sorts of ideas were born there, and 
how were they born? In the first place, they see the event, whatever 
it be, and they see it as itis; I mean that they have it within them- 
selves, with its persons and details, beautiful and ugly, even dull and 
grotesque. If it is a trial, the judge is there, in their minds, in such 
a place, with his physiognomy and his warts; the pleader in such a 
place, with his spectacles and brief-bag; the accused is opposite, 
stooping and remorseful; each with his friends, cobblers, or lords; 
then the buzzing crowd behind, all with, their grinning faces, their 
astonished or kindling eyes.’ It is a genuine trial which they imagine, 
a trial like those they have seen before the justice, where they cried 
or shouted as witnesses or interested parties, with their quibbling terms, 
their pros and cons, the scribblings, the sharp voices of the counsel, 
the stamping of feet, the crowding, the smell of their fellow-men, and 
so forth. The endless myriads of circumstances which accompany 
and obscure every event, crowd round that event in their heads, and 
not merely the externals, that is, the sensible and picturesque traits, 
the particular colours and costumes, but also, and chiefly, the in- 
that is, the motions of anger and joy, the secret tumult of 
the soul, the ebb and flow of ideas and passions which darken the 
face, swell the veins, and make any grind, the fists clench, which 
urge or restrain aman. They see all the details, the tides that sway 
a man, one from without, another from within, one over another, one 
within another, both together without faltering and without ceasing. 
And what is this vision but sympathy, an imitative sympathy, which 
puts us in another’s place, which carries over their agitations to our own 


breasts, which makes our life a little world, able to reproduce the great 
one in abstract? Like the characters they imagine, poets and spectators 


___-¥ See the trial of Vittoria Corombona, of Virginia in Webster, of Coriolanus 
end Julius Cesar in Shakspeare. 




































. 


246 THE RENAISSANCE. ‘[BOoK It. 


make gestures, raise their voices, act. No speech or story can show their 
inner mood, but it is the getting up of the play which can manifest it. 
As some men find language for their ideas, so these act and mimic 
them; theatrical and figured representation is their genuine speech : all 
other expression, the lyrical song of Aschylus, the reflective symbolism 
of Goethe, the oratorical development of Racine, would be impossible 
for them. JInvoluntarily, instantaneously, without forecast, they cut 
life into scenes, and carry it in pieces on the boards; this goes so 
far, that often a mere character becomes an actor,’ playing a part 
within a part; the scenic faculty is the natural form of their mind. 
Under the effort of this instinct, all the accessory parts of the drama 
come before the footlights and expand under our eyes. A battle has 
been fought; instead of relating it, they bring it before the public, 
trumpets and drums, mingling crowds, slaughtering combatants. A 
shipwreck happens; straightway the ship is before the spectator, with 
the sailors’ oaths, the technical orders of the helmsman. Of all the 
details of human life,? tavern-racket and statesmen’s councils, scullion 
jests and court processions, domestic tenderness and pandering,—none 
is too small or too high: these things exist in life—let them exist on 
the stage, each in full, in the rough, atrocious, or absurd, just as it is, 
no matter how. Neither in Greece, nor Italy, nor Spain, nor France, 
has an art been seen which tried so boldly to express the soul, with 
the soul’s most intimate relations—the truth, and the whole truth. 

How did they succeed, and what is this new art which confounds 
all ordinary rules? It is an art for all that, since it is natural; a great 
art, since it embraces more things, and that more deeply than others 
do, like the art of Rembrandt and Rubens; but like theirs, it is a 
Teutonic art, and one whose every step is in contrast with these of 


classical art. What the Greeks and Romans, the originators of the _ 


latter, sought in everything, was propriety and order, monuments, 
statues and paintings, the theatre, eloquence and poetry: from Sophocles 
to Racine, they shaped all their work in the same mould, and attained 
beauty by the same method. In the infinite entanglement and com- 
plexity of things, they grasped a small number of simple ideas, which 
they embraced in a small number of simple representations, so that the 
vast confused vegetation of life is presented to the mind from that time 
forth, pruned and reduced, and perhaps easily embraced by a single 
glance. A square of walls with rows of similar columns; a symmetrical 
group of draped or undraped forms; a young upright man raising one 
arm; a wounded warrior who will not return to the camp, though they 
beseech him: this, in their noblest epoch, was their architecture, their 
painting, their sculpture, and their theatre. No poetry but a few senti- 
ments slightly complex, always natural, not toned down, intelligible to 

1 Falstaff in Shakspeare; the queen in London, by Greene and Decker; 


Rosalind in Shakspeare. 
2 In Webster's Duchess of Malf there is an admirable accouchement scene. 








: 
: 
| 
1 


CHAP, IL] | THE THEATRE, 247 


all; no eloquence but a continuous argument, a limited vocabulary, the 
loftiest ideas brought down to their sensible origin, so that children can 
understand such eloquence and feel such poetry ; and in this sense they 
are classical. In the hands of Frenchmen, the last inheritors of the 
simple art, these great legacies of antiquity undergo no change. If 
poetic genius is less, the structure of mind has not altered. Racine 
puts on the stage a unique action, whose details he proportions, and 
whose course he regulates; no incident, nothing unforeseen, no appen- 
dices or incongruities; no secondary intrigue. The subordinate parts 
are effaced; at the most four or five principal characters, the fewest 
possible; the rest, reduced to the condition of confidants, take the tone 
of their masters, and merely reply to them. All the scenes are held 
together, and flow insensibly one into the other; and every scene, like 
the entire piece, has its order and progress. The tragedy is detached 
symmetrically and clear from the midst*of human life, like a complete 
and solitary temple which limns its regular outline on the luminous azure 
of the sky. In England all is different, All that the French call pro- 
portion and fitness is wanting ; Englishmen do not trouble themselves 
about them, they do not needthem. There is no unity; they leap sud- 
denly over twenty years, or five hundred leagues, There are twenty scenes 
in an act—we stumble without preparation from one to the other, from 
tragedy to buffoonery ; usually it appears as though the action gained no 
ground; the characters waste their time in conversation, dreaming, ex- 
panding their parts. We were moved, anxious for the issue, and here 
they bring us in quartelling servants, lovers making poetry. Even the 
dialogue and speeches, which one would think ought particularly to be of 
a regular and contained flow of engrossing ideas, remain stagnant, or are 
scattered in windings and deviations. At first sight we fancy we are not 
advancing, we do not feel at every phrase that we have made a step. 
There are none of those solid pleadings, none of those probing dis- 
cussions, which moment by moment add reason to reason, objection to 
objection; one would say that they only knew how to scold, to repeat 
themselves, and to mark time. And the disorder is as great in general 
as in particular things. They heap a whole reign, a complete war, an 

entire novel, into a drama; they cut up into scenes an English chronicle 
or an Italian novel: to this their art is reduced; the events matter 
little; whatever they are, they accept them. They have no idea of pro- 
gressive and unique action. Two or three actions connected endwise, 
or entangled one within another, two or three incomplete endings badly 
contrived, and opened up again; no machinery but death, scattered right 
and left and untoreseen :- such is the logic of their method. The fact 
is, that our logic, the Latin, fails them. Their mind does not march 


‘This is, in fact, the English view of the French mind, which is doubtless a 
refinement, many times refined, of the classical spirit, But M. Taine has seemingly 
not taken into account such products as the Medea on the one hand, and the 
works of Aristophanes and the Latin sensualists on the other.—Tx. 








aie 


248 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 1. 


by the smooth and straightforward paths of rhetoric and eloquence. It 
reaches the same end, but by other approaches. It is at once more 
comprehensive and less regular than ours. It demands a conception 
more complete, but less consecutive. It proceeds, not as with us, by a 
line of uniform steps, but by sudden leaps and long pauses. It does 
not rest satisfied with a simple idea drawn from a complex fact, but 
exacts the complex fact entire, with its numberless particularities, its 


interminable ramifications. It would see in man nota general passion— 


ambition, anger, or love; not a pure quality—happiness, avarice, folly ; 
but a character, that is, the imprint, wonderfully complicated, which 
inheritance, temperament, education, calling, the age, society, conver- 
sation, habits, have stamped on every man; an incommunicable and 
individual imprint, which, once stamped in a man, is not found again 
in any other. It would see in the hero not only the hero, but the in- 
dividual, with his manner of walking, drinking, swearing, blowing his 
nose; with the tone of his voice, whether he is thin or fat;’ and thus 
plunges to the bottom of things, with every look, as by a miner’s deep 
shaft. This sunk, it little cares whether the second shaft be two paces 
or a hundred from the first; enough that it reaches the same depth, 
and serves equally well to display the inner and invisible layer. Logie 
is here from beneath, not from above. It is the unity of a character 
which binds the two acts of a person, as the unity of an impression con- 
nects the two scenes of a drama. To speak exactly, the spectator is 
like a man whom one should lead along a wall pierced at separate in- 
tervals with little windows; at every window he catches for an instant 
a glimpse of a new landscape, with its million details: the walk over, if 
he is of Latin race and training, he finds a medley of images jostling in 
his head, and asks for a map that he may recollect himself; if he is of 
German race and training, he perceives as a whole, by a natural con- 
centration, the wide country of which he has only seen the fragments. 
Such a conception, by the multitude of details which it has combined, 
and by the length of the vistas which it embraces, is a half-vision which 
shakes the soul. What these works are about to show us is, with what 
energy, what disdain of contrivance, what vehemence of truth, it dares 
to smite and hammer the human medal; with what liberty it is able 
to reproduce the full prominence of indistinct characters, and the 
extreme flights of virgin nature. 


VI. 


Let us consider the different personages which this art, so suited to 
depict real manners, and so apt to paint the living soul, goes in search 
of amidst the real manners and the living souls of its time and country. 
They are of two kinds, as befits nature and the drama: one which pro- 





1 See Hamlet, Coriolanus, Hotspur. The queen in Hamlet (v. 2) says: 
* He (Hamlet)’s fat, and scant of breath.’ 





~ — . a. a a —— = a 





CHAP. IL] THE THEATRE. 249 


duces terror, the other which produces pity; these graceful and feminine, 
those manly and violent. All the differences of sex, all the extremes of 
life, all the resources of the stage, are embraced in this contrast; and if 
ever there was a complete contrast, it is here. 

The reader must study for himself some of these pieces, or he will 
have no idea of the fury into which the stage is hurled; force and 
transport are driven every instant to the point of atrocity, and further 
still, if there is any further. Assassinations, poisonings, tortures, out- 
cries of madness and rage; no passion and no suffering are too extreme 
for their energy or their effort. Anger is with them a madness, ambi- 
tion a frenzy, love a delirium. Hippolyto, who has lost his mistress, 
says, ‘ Were thine eyes clear as mine, thou might’st behold her, watch- 
ing upon yon battlements of stars, how I observe them.’* Aretus, to be 
avenged on Valentinian, poisons him after poisoning himself, and with 
the death-rattle in his throat, is brought to his enemy's side, to give him 
a foretaste of agony. Queen Brunhalt has panders with her on the stage, 
and causes her two sons to slay each other. Death everywhere; at the 
close of every play, all the great people wade in blood: with slaughter 
and butcheries, the stage becomes a field of battle or a burial-ground.’ 
Shall I describe a few of these tragedies? In the Duke of Milan, Fran- 
cesco, to avenge his sister, who has been seduced, wishes to seduce in 
his turn the Duchess Marcelia, wife of Sforza, the seducer; he desires 
her, he will have her ; be says to her, with cries of love and rage: 

* For with this arm I'll swim through seas of blood, 

Or make a bridge, arch’d with the bones of men, 

But I will grasp my aims in you, my dearest, 

Dearest, and best of women !"3 
For he wishes to strike the duke through her, whether she lives or 
dies, if not by dishonour, at least by murder; the first is as good as 
the second, nay better, for so he will do a greater injury. He calumni- 
ates her, and the duke, who adores her, kills her; then, being unde- 
ceived, becomes a madman, will not believe she is dead, has the body 
brought in, kneels before it, rages and weeps. He knows now the name 
of the traitor, and at the thought of him he swoons or raves : 

* I'll follow him to hell, but I will find him, 

And then live a fourth Fury to terment him. 

Then, for this cursed hand and arm that guided 


The wicked steel, I'll have them, joint by joint, 
With burning irons sear’d off, which I will eat, 
I being « vulture fit te taste such carrion.’* 


Suddenly his speech is stopped, and he falls; Francesco has poisoned 


1 Middleton, The Honest Whore, Part i. iv. 1. 
- * Beaumont and Fletcher, Valentinian, Thierry and Theodoret. See Massinger’s 
Picture, which resembles Musset’s Barberine. Its crudity, the extraordinary and 
repulsive energy, will show the difference of the two ages. 


® Massingsr’s Works, ed. H. Coleridge, 1850, Duke of Milan, i. 1. 4 Ibid. v. 2 





250 THE RENAISSANCE. [Book 11 


him. The duke dies, and the murderer is led to torture. There are 
worse scenes than this; to find sentiments strong enough, they go to 
those which change the nature of man. Massinger puts on the stage a 
father who judges and condemns his daughter, stabbed by her husband ; 
Webster and Ford, a son who assassinates his mother; Ford, the in- 
cestuous loves of a brether and sister. Irresistible love overtakes 
them; the ancient love of Pasiphaé and Myrrha, a kind of madness- 
like enchantment, and beneath which the will entirely gives way. 
Giovanni says : 
* Lost! 1am lost! My fates have doom’d my death ! 

The more I strive, I love ; the more I sie 

The less I hope: I see my ruin certain. 

I have even wearied heaven with pray’ 18, dried up| 

The spring of my continual tears, even starv’d 

My veins with daily fasts: what wit or art 

Could counsel, 1 have practised ; but, alas! 

I find all these but dreams, and old men’s tales, 

To fright unsteady youth: I am still the same ; 

Or I must speak, or burst.’* 


What transports follow! what fierce and bitter joys, and how short 
too, how grievous and crossed with anguish, especially for her! She 
is married to another. Read for yourself the admirable and horrible 
scene which represents the wedding night. She is pregnant, and 
Soranzo, the husband, drags her along the ground, with curses, demand- 
ing the name of her lover: 
* Come strumpet, famous whore! . . 
Harlot, rare, notable harlot, 

That with thy brazen face maintain’st thy sin, 

Was there no man in Parma to be bawd 

To your loose cunning whoredom else but I? 

Must your hot itch and pleurisy of lust, 

The heyday of your luxury, be fed 

Up to a surfeit, and could none but I 

Be pick’d out to be cloak to your close tricks, 

Your belly-sports ?—Now I must be the dad 

To all that gallimaufry that is stufi’d 

In thy corrupted bastard-bearing womb ? 

Why, must I? 

Annabella, Beastly man! why ?—’tis thy fate. 
I sued not to thee... . 
8. Tell me by whom.’ 


She gets excited, feels and cares for nothing more, refuses to tell the 
name of her lover, and praises him in the following words ¢ 





1 Massinger, The Fatal Dowry ; Webster and Ford, A late Murther of the Sonne 
upon the Mother (a play not extant); Ford, ’Tis pity she’s a Whore. See also 
Ford’s Broken Heart, with its sublime scenes of agony and madness, 

# Ford’s Works, ed. H. Coleridge, 1859, ’Zis pity she’s a Whore, i. 3. 

8 Ibid. iv. 3, 











‘THE THEATRE. 251 


* A. Soft, "twas not in my bargain. 

Yet somewhat, sir, to stay your longing stomach 

T am content t’ acquaint you with: the Man, 

The more than man, that got this sprightly boy,— 
(For "tis a boy, and therefore glory, sir, 

Your heir shall be a son.) 

8. Damnable monster ! 

A. Nay, an you will not hear, I'll speak no more. 


You, why you are not worthy once to name 
His name without true worship, or indeed, 
Unless you kneel’d, to hear another name him. 
S. What was he call'd t 
A, We are not come to that ; 
Let it suffice that you shall have the glory 
To father what so brave a father got. . . . 
8. Dost thou laugh? 
Come, whore, tell me your lover, or by truth 
I'll hew thy tlesh to shreds ; who is't t’* 


She laughs; the excess of shame and terror has given her courage; 
she insults him, she sings; so like a woman! 
* A. (Sings.) Che morte piu dolce che morire per amore. 
8. Thus will I pull thy hair, and thus I'll drag 
Thy lust be-leper’d body through the dust. . . . 
(Hales her up and down.) 
A. Be a gallant ir 
I leave revenge behind, and thou shalt feel it. . . . 
(To Vasquez.) Pish, do not beg for me, I prize my life 
As nothing ; if the man will needs be mad, 
Why, let him take it.'* 


In the end all is discovered, and the two lovers know they must die, 
For the last time, they see each other in Annabella’s chamber, listening 
to the noise of the feast below which shall serve for their funeral-feast. 
Giovanni, who has made his resolve like a madman, sees Annabella 
richly dressed, dazzling. He regards her in silence, and remembers 
the past. He weeps, and says: 
* These are the funeral tears, 

Shed on your grave ; these furrow’d up my cheeks 

When first I lov’d and knew not how to woo. . . . 

Give me your hand: how sweetly life doth run 

In these well-colour’d veins! How constantly 

These palms do promise health! . . . 

Kiss me again, forgive me. . . . Farewell.’*... 


He then stabs her, enters the banqueting room, with her heart upon 


his dagger: 





1'Tis pity she's a Whore, iv. 3. * Ibid. 5 Ibid, v. 5. 





ae > = | 


252 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


* Soranzo, see this heart, which was thy wife’s. 
Thus I exchange it royally for thine.’+ 
He kills him, and casting himself on the swords of banditti, dies. It 
would seem that tragedy could go no further. 

But it did go further ; for if these are melodramas, they are sincere, 
composed, not like those of to-day, by Grub Street writers for peaceful 
citizens, but by impassioned men, experienced in tragical arts, for a 
violent, over-fed, melancholy race. From Shakspeare to Milton, Swift, 
Hogarth, no race has been more glutted with crudities and horrors, and 
its poets supply them plentifully; Ford less so than Webster ; the latter a 
sombre man, whose thoughts seem incessantly to be haunting tombs and 
charnel-houses. ‘Places in court,’ he says, ‘are but like beds in the 
hospital, where this man’s head lies at that man’s foot, and so lower and 
lower.’* Such are his images. No one has equalled Webster in creating 
desperate characters, utter wretches, bitter misanthropes,® in blackening 
and blaspheming human life, above all, in depicting the shameless de- 
pravity and refined ferocity of Italian manners.‘ The Duchess of 
Malfi has secretly married her steward Antonio, and her brother learns 
that she has children; almost mad*® with rage and wounded pride, he 
remains silent, waiting until he knows the name of the father; then he 
arrives, means to kill her, but so that she shall taste the lees of death. 
She must suffer much, but above all she must not die too quickly! 
She must suffer in mind; these griefs are worse than the body’s. He 
sends assassins to kill Antonio, and meanwhile comes to her in the 
dark, with affectionate words; pretends to be reconciled, and suddenly 
shows her waxen figures, covered with wounds, whom she takes for 
her slaughtered husband and children. She staggers under the blow, 
and remains in gloom, without crying out. ‘Then she says: 

* Good comfortable fellow, 
Persuade a wretch that’s broke upon the wheel 
To have all his bones new set ; entreat him live 
To be executed again. Who must despatch me?.. .« 





1’Tis pity she’s a Whore, v. 6. 

2 Webster’s Works, ed. Dyce, 1857, Duchess of Mal, i. 1. 

% The characters of Bosola, Flaminio. 

* See Stendhal Chronicles of Italy, The Cenci, The Duchess of Palliano, and all 
the biographies of the time; of the Borgias, of Bianca Capello, of Vittoria Accoram- 
boni, ete. 

* Ferdinand, one of the brothers, says (ii 5) : 

* I would have their bodies 
Burnt in a coal-pit with the ventage stopp’d, 
That their curs’d smoke might not ascend to heaven ; 
Or dip the sheets they lie in im pitch or sulphur, 
Wrap them in’t, and then light them as a match ; 
Or else to boil their bastard to a cullis, 
And give’t his lecherous father to renew 
The sin of his back,’ 











i ¢ fae ’ . J _—- * 


a ~s ' -~ .. ™/ bee J . 
Oe | oy De ee Ra Sa 
is " ee Fae . * - 
CHAP. 1] THE THEATRE. 253 
SS - r 


_ «4 
Bosola. Come, be of comfort, I will save your life. 
Duchess, Indeed, I have not leisure to tend so small a business, 
B. Now, by my life, I pity you. 
D. Thou art a fool, then, 
To waste thy pity on a thing so wretched 
As cannot pity itself, I am full of daggers.’? . . . 


Bite wees spoken: 8 © constrained voine, se in.» areem, or asf she 
were of a third person. Her brother sends to her a company 
q SNE Eoin leas ate tat edt hover ectend) bor Sn rccecnen GaN 
- a pitiful sight, caleulated to unseat the reason; a kind of foretaste of 
She says nothing, looking upon them; her heart is dead, her 


q C. Like a madman, with your eyes open? 
7 D. Dost thou think we shall know one another 
In th’ other world? 
C. Yes, out of question. 
D. O, that it were possible we might 
But hold some two days’ conference with the dead! 
From them I should learn somewhat, I am sure, 
I never shall know here, I'll tell thee a miracle ; 
I am not mad yet. ... 
The heaven o’er my head seems made of molten brass, 
The earth of flaming sulphur, yet I am not mad. 
I am acquainted with sad misery 
As the tann’d galley-slave is with his oar.’*... 


In this state, the limbs, like those of a condemned, still quiver, but the 
sensibility is worn out; the miserable body only stirs mechanically; it 
has suffered too much. At last the gravedigger comes with executioners, 
a coffin, and they sing before her a funeral dirge: 


* Duchess, Farewell, Cariola . . . 
I pray thee, look thou giv’st my little boy 
Some syrup for his cold, and let the girl 
Say her prayers ere she sleep.—Now, what you please: 
What death? 
Bosola, Strangling ; here are your executioners. 
D. | forgive them : 
The apoplexy, catarrh, or cough o' th’ lungs 
¥ ‘Would do as much as they do. . . . My body 
Po. Bestow upon my women, will you?. . . 





m Go, tell my brothers, when I am laid out, 
3 They then may feed in quiet.’ * 


__ After the mistress the maid; the latter cries and struggles: 





) Duchess. of Malfi, iv. 1. 8 bid. iv, 2 * Ibid. 





254 THE RENAISSANCE. . [BOOK IL 


*Cariola, I will not die ; I must not; I am contracted 
To a young gentleman. . 
1st Executioner. Here’s your wedding-ring. 
C. If you kill me now, 
Iam damn’d. I have not been at confession 
This two years. 
B. When?! 
C. 1 am quick with child.’® 


They strangle her also, and the two children of the duchess, Antonio 


is assassinated ; the cardinal and his mistress, the duke and his confidant, . 


are poisoned or butcliered; and the solemn words of the dying, in the 
midst of this butchery, utter, as from funereal trumpets, a general curse 
upon existence : 
* We are only like dead walls or vaulted graves, 
That, ruin’d, yield no echo. Fare you well. ... 
O, this gloomy world! 
In what a shadow, or deep pit of darkness, 
Doth womanish and fearful mankind live!’*... 
*In all our quest of greatness, 
Like wanton boys, whose pastime is their care, 
We follow after bubbles blown in the air. 
Pleasure of life, what is’t? only the good hours 
Of an ague ; merely a preparative to rest, 
To endure vexation.... 
Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, 
Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust.’4 


You will find nothing sadder or greater from the Edda to Lord Byron. 
We can well imagine what powerful characters are necessary to 

sustain these terrible dramas. All these personages are ready for ex- 

treme acts; their resolves break forth like blows of a sword; we follow, 


meet at every change of scene their glowing eyes, wan lips, the starting _ 


of their muscles, the tension of their whole frame. The unrestraint of 
their wills contracts their violent hands, and their accumulated passion 
breaks out in thunder, which tears and ravages all around them, and in 
their own hearts. We know them, the heroes of this tragic population, 
Iago, Richard m1., Lady Macbeth, Othello, Coriolanus, Hotspur, full of 
genius, courage, desire, generally enraged and criminal, always self- 
driven to the tomb. There are as many around Shakspeare as in his 
own works. Let me exhibit one more, again in the same man, Webster. 
No one, except Shakspeare, has seen further forward into the depths of 
diabolical and unchained nature. The ‘ White Devil’ is the name which 
he gives to his heroine. His Vittoria Corombona receives as her lover 
the Duke of Brachiano, and at the first interview dreams of the issue : 





1 ¢ When,’ an exclamation of impatience, equivalent to ‘make haste,’ very. 


common among the old English dramatists. —Tr. 
3 Duchess of Malfi, iv. 2. 3 Ibid. v. 5. * Ibid, v. 4 and 5, 





‘To pass away the time, I'll tell your grace 
. A dream I had last night.’ 


It is certainly well related, and still better chosen, of deep meaning and 
very clear import. Her brother Flaminio says, aside: 

‘Excellent devil! she hath taught him in a dream 

To make away his duchess and her husband.’ * 


In short, her husband, Camillo, is strangled, the duchess poisoned, and 
ia, accused of the two crimes, is brought before the tribunal. 
by step, like a soldier brought to bay with his back against a 
wall, she defends herself, refuting and defying advocates and judges, 
incapable of blenching or quailing, clear in mind, ready in word, amid 
insults and proofs, even menaced with death on the scaffold. The 
advocate begins to speak in Latin. 

* Vittoria. Pray, my lord, let him speak his usual tongue ; 
I'll make no answer else. 

Francisco de Medicis. Why, you understand Latin. 

V. Ido, sir; but amongst this auditory 
Which come to hear my cause, the half or more 
May be ignorant in’t.’ 
af She wants a duel, bare-breasted, in open day, and challenges the advocate: 
*I am at the mark, sir: I'll give aim to you, 
And tell you how near you shoot.’ 


<aue mocks his speech, insults him, with biting irony : 

‘Surely, my lords, this lawyer here hath swallow'd 

Some pothecaries’ bills, or proclamations ; 

And now the hard and undigestible words 

Come up, like stones we use give hawks for physic : : 
Why, this is Welsh to Latin.” 


Then, to the strongest adjuration of the judges: 

*To the point. 
Find me guilty, sever head from body, 
We'll part good friends : I scorn to hold my life 
At yours, or any man’s entreaty, sir... . 
These are but feigned shadows of my evils: 
Terrify babes, my lord, with painted devils ; 
I am past such needless palsy. For your names 
Of whore and murderess, they proceed from you, 
As if a man should spit against the wind ; 
The filth returns in’s face.’ 


_ Argument for argument: she has a parry for every blow: a parry and 
a thrust: 

. ‘ But take you your course: it seems you have beggar'd me first, 
And now would fain undo me. I have houses, 


Jewels, and a poor remnant of crusadoes: 
Would those would make you charitable!’ 


1 Vittoria Corombona, i, 2. 












256 THE RENAISSANCE. “ [Book m 


Then, in a harsher voice: 


‘In faith, my lord, you might go pistol flies ; 
The sport would be more noble.’ 


They condemn her to be shut up in a house of convertites: 


*V. A house of convertites! What's that? 
Monticelso. A house of penitent whores, 
V. Do the noblemen in Rome 
Erect it for their wives, that I am n sent 
To lodge there ?’ 


The sarcasm comes home like a sword-thrust; then another behind it ; 
then cries and curses. She will not bend, she will not weep. She 
goes off erect, bitter and more haughty than ever: 


‘I will not weep ; 
No, I do scorn to call up one poor tear 
To fawn on your injustice : bear me hence 
Unto this house of —. what's your mitigating title? 
Mont. Of convertites. 
V. It shall not be a house of convertites ; 
My mind shall make it honester to me 
Than the Pope’s palace, and more peaceable 
Than thy soul, though thou art a cardinal.”? 


Against her furious lover, who accuses her of unfaithfulness, she is as 
strong as against her judges ; she copes with him, casts in his teeth the 
death of his duchess, forces him to beg pardon, to marry her; she will 
play the comedy to the end, at the pistol’s mouth, wih the shameless- 
ness and courage of a courtesan and an empress ;* snared at last, she 
will be just as brave and more insulting at the dagger’s point: 


* Yes, I shall welcome death 
As princes do some great ambassadors ; : 
I'll meet thy weapon half way. . . . “T'was a manly blow; 
The next thou giv’st, murder some sucking infant ; 
And then thou wilt be famous.”® 


When a woman unsexes herself, her actions transcend man’s, and there 
is nothing which she will not suffer or dare. 


VII. 


Opposed to this band of tragic figures, with their contorted features, 
brazen fronts, combative attitudes, is a troop of sweet and timid figures, 
tender before everything, the most graceful and loveworthy, whom it 
has been given to man to depict. In Shakspeare you will meet them 
in Miranda, Juliet, Desdemona, Virginia, Ophelia, Cordelia, Imogen ; 





j 
1 Vittoria Corombona, iii. 2. : 
* Compare Mme. Marneffe in Balzac’s La Cousine Betie, - 

8 Vittoria Corombona, v, last scene. . 


| THE THEATRE. 257 


ahound also in the others; and it is a characteristic of the 
race to have furnished them, as it is of the drama to have represented 
them. By asingular coincidence, the women are more of women, the 
men more of men, here than elsewhere. The two natures go each to 
its extreme: in the one to boldness, the spirit of enterprise and resist- 
ance, the warlike, imperious, and unpolished character; in the other to 
- sweetness, devotion, patience, inextinguishable affection,’—a thing un- 
known in distant lands, and in France especially: a woman here gives 
herself without drawing back, and places her glory and duty in obe- 
dience, forgiveness, adoration, wishing and pretending only to be melted 
and absorbed daily deeper and deeper in him whom she has freely and 
for ever chosen.” It is this, an old German instinct, which these great 
painters of instinct diffuse here, one and all: Penthea, Dorothea, in Ford 
and Greene; Isabella and the Duchess of Malfi, in Webster; Bianca, 
Ordella, Arethusa, Juliana, Euphrasia, Amoret, and others, in Beaumont 
and Fletcher: there are a score of them who, under the severest tests 
and the strongest temptations, display this admirable power of self- 
abandonment and devotion.*? The soul, in this race, is at once primitive 
and serious. Women keep their candour longer than elsewhere. They 
lose respect less quickly ; weigh worth and characters less suddenly: 
they are less apt to think evil, and to take the measure of their hus- 
bands. To this day, a great lady, accustomed to company, can blush in 
_ the presence of an unknown man, and feel troubled like a little girl: 

_ the blue eyes are dropt, and a child-like shame flies to her rosy cheeks. 
English women have not the smartness, the boldness of ideas, the assur- 
ance of bearing, the precocity, which with the French make of a young 
girl, in six months, a woman of intrigue and the queen of a drawing- 
room.‘ A narrowed life and obedience are more easy to them. More 
pliant and more sedentary, they are at the same time more concentrated 
and introspective, more disposed to follow the noble dream called duty, 
which is hardly generated in mankind but by silence of the senses. 
They are not tempted by the voluptuous sweetness which in southern 
countries is breathed out in the climate, in the sky, in the general 
spectacle of things ; which dissolves every obstacle, which makes priva- 

































1 Hence the happiness and strength of the marriage tie. In France it is but 
an association of two comrades, tolerably alike and tolerably equal, which gives 
rise to endless disturbance and bickering. 

2 See the representation of this character throughout English and German 
- Jiterature. Stendhal, an acute observer, saturated with Italian and French morals 
_ and ideas, is astonished at this phenomenon. He understands nothing of this 
’ ‘kind of devotion, ‘this slavery which English husbands have had the wit to 


seraglio.” See also Corinne, by Madame de Staél. 
£ "4 8ce, by: way of contrast, all Moliire's women, so French; even Agnes and little 
R 


258 THE RENAISSANCE. [Boor m1. 


tion a snare and virtue a theory. They can rest content with dull 
sensations, dispense with excitement, endure weariness; and in this 
monotony of a regulated existence, fall back upon themselves, obey a 
pure idea, employ all the force of their hearts in maintaining their 
moral dignity. Thus supported by innocence and conscience, they in- 
troduce into love a profound and upright sentiment, abjure coquetry, 
vanity, and flirtations: they do not lie, they are not affected. When 
they love, they are not tasting a forbidden fruit, but are binding them- 
selves for their whole life. Thus understood, love becomes almost a 
holy thing; the spectator no longer wishes to be malicious or to jest; 
women do not think of their own happiness, but of that of the loved 
ones; they aim not at pleasure, but at devotion. Euphrasia, relating 
her history to Philaster, says: 
‘ My father oft would speak 

Your worth and virtue ; and, as I did grow 

More and more apprehensive, I did thirst 

To see the man so prais’d ; but yet all this 

Was but a maiden longing, to be lost 

As soon as found ; till sitting in my window, 

Printing my thoughts in lawn, I saw a god, 

I thought (but it was you), enter our gates. 

My blood flew out, and back again as fast, 

As I had puff’d it forth and suck’d it in 

Like breath: Then was I call’d away in haste 

To entertain you. Never was a man, 

Heav’d from a sheep-cote to a sceptre, raised 

So high in thoughts as I: You left a kiss 

Upon these lips then, which I mean to keep 

From you for ever. I did hear you talk, 

Far above singing! After you were gone, 

I grew acquainted with my heart, and search’d 

What stirr’d it so: Alas! I found it love ; 

Yet far from lust ; for could I but have liv’d 

In presence of you, I had had my end.’? 


She had disguised herself as a page,’ followed him, was his servant ; 
and what greater happiness for a woman than to serve on her knees 
the man she loves? She let him scold her, threaten her with death, 
wound her. 


* Blest be that hand ! 
It meant me well. Again, for pity’s sake!’® 


Do what he will, nothing but words of tenderness and adoration can 
leave this heart, these wan lips. More, she takes upon herself a crime 
of which he is accused, contradicts his assertions, is ready to die in his 
place. Still more, she is of use to him with the Princess Arethusa, 





1 Beaumont and Fletcher, Works, ed. G, Colman, 3 vols., 1811, Philaster, v. 5, 


® Like Kaled in Byron’s Lara, % Philaster, iv. 4. 





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: 
' THE THEATRE. 259 


whom he loves; she justifies her rival, brings about their 
and asks no other thanks but that she may serve them both. And 





strange to say, the princess is not jealous. 


* Euphrasia, Never, Sir, will I 
Marry ; it is a thing within my vow: 
But if I may have leave to serve the 
To see the virtues of her lord and her, 
I shall have hope to live, 

Arethusa. + « « Come, live with me; 
Live free as Ido, She that loves my lord, 
Curst be the wife that hates her!’! 


What notion of love have they in this country? Whence happens 


‘it that all selfishness, all vanity, all rancour, every little feeling, either 


personal or base, flees at its approach? How comes it that the soul 
is given up wholly, without hesitation, without reserve, and only 
dreams thenceforth of prostrating and annihilating itself, as in the 
presence of a God? Biancha, thinking Cesario ruined, offers herself 
to him as his wife; and learning that he is not so, gives him up straight- 
way, without a murmur: 


* Biancha. So dearly I respected both your fame 
And quality, that I would first have perish’d 
In my sick thoughts, than e’er have given consent 
To have undone your fortunes, by inviting 
A marriage with so mean a one as I am: 
I should have died sure, and no creature known 
The sickness that had kill’d me. . . . Now since I know 
There is no difference 'twixt your birth and mine, 
Not much "twixt our estates (if any be, 
The advantage is on my side), I come willingly 
To tender you the first-fruits of my heart, 
And am content t’ accept you for my husband, 
Now when you are at lowest . . 

Cesario. Why, Biancha, 
Report has cozen’d thee ; I am not fallen 
From my expected honours or 
Saree ee bene ot etnies 

Are you not? 
saat Yom Mehta’ I have a suit too ;, 
You'll grant it, if you be a good man... . 
Pray do not talk of aught what I have said t’'ye. . . « 
. +.» Pity me; 

But never love me more. . . . I'll pray for you, 
That you may have a virtuous wife, a fair one ; 
And when I'm dead... ©. Fy, fy! B. Think on me sometimes 
With mercy for this trespass! ©. Let us kiss 
At parting, as at coming. 2B, This I have 





1 Philaster, v. 5. 


260 THE RENAISSANCE. - [BOOK Tr. 


As a free dower to a virgin’s grave, 
All goodness dwell with you!’! 

The Duchess of Brachiano is betrayed, insulted by her faithless 
husband; to shield him from the vengeance of her family, she takes 
upon herself the blame of the rupture, purposely plays the shrew, and 
leaving him at peace with his courtesan, dies embracing his picture. 
Arethusa allows herself to be wounded by Philaster, stays the people 
who would hold back the murderer’s arm, declares that he has done 
nothing, that it is not he, prays for him, loves him in spite of all, even 
to the end, as though all his acts were sacred, as if he had power of 
life and death over her. Ordella devotes herself, that the king, her 
husband, may have children ;* she offers herself for a sacrifice, simply, 7 
without gtand words, with her whole heart : 

‘ Ordella. Let it be what it may then, what it dare, 

I have a ‘mind will hazard it. 

Thierry. Bat hark you ; 4 
What may that woman merit, makes this blessing? 

O. Only her duty, sir. J. Tis terrible! 

O. ’Tis so much the more noble. 

T. *Tis full of fearful shadows! 0. So is sleep, sir, , 
Or anything that’s merely ours, and mortal ; 
We were begotten godselse : but those fears, 
Feeling but once the fires of nobler thoughts, | 
Fly, like the shapes of the clouds we form, ‘to nothing. | 

7. Suppose it death! O. Ido. 2. And endless pa:ting 
With all we can call ours, with all our sweetness, 

With youth, strength, pleasure, people, time, nay réason 
For in the silent grave, no conversation, 
No joyful tread of friends, no voice of lovers, 
No careful father’s counsel, nothing’s heard, 
Nor nothing is, but all oblivion, 
Dust and an endless darkness: and dare you, woman, 
Desire this place? O. "Tis of all sleeps the sweetest: 
Children begin it to us, strong men seek it, 
And kings from height of all their painted glories 
Fall, like spent exhalations, to this centre... . 
7. Then you can suffer? ‘O. As willingly’as say it. 
T. Martell, a wonder’! 
Here’s a woman that dares die.—Yet tell me, 
Are you a wife? .O, Iam, sir. 7. And have children ?— 
She sighs, and weeps! O, Oh, none, sir. 2%. Dare’you venture, 
For a poor barren praise you ne’er shall hear, 
To part with these sweet hopes? O. With all but Heaven.’ 


Is not this grand? Can you understand how one human being can 
1 Beaumont and Fletcher, The Fair Maid of the Inn, iv. 
? Beaumont and Fletcher, Thierry and Theodoret, The Maid’s Tragedy, Phi- 
laster. See also the part of Lucina in Valentinian. 
8 Thierry and Theodoret, iv. 1, 











THE THEATRE. 261 


thus be separated from herself, forget and lose herself in another? 
They do so lose themselves, as in an abyss. When they love in vain 
and without hope, neither reason nor life resist; they languish, grow 
mad, die like Ophelia. Aspasia, forlorn, 


* Walks discontented, with her watry eyes 
Bent on the earth. The unfrequented woods 
Are her delight ; and when she sees a bank 
Stuck full of flowers, she with a sigh will tell 
Her servants what a pretty place it were 

To bury lovers in ; and make her maids 

Pluck "em, and strew her over like a corse. 
She carries with her an infectious grief 

That strikes all her beholders ; she will sing 
The mournful’st things that ever ear hath heard, 
And sigh and sing again ; and when the rest 
Of our young ladies, in their wanton blood, 
Tell mirthful tales in course, that fill the room 
With laughter, she will with so sad a look 
Bring forth a story of the silent death 

Of some forsaken virgin, which her grief 

Will put in such a phrase, that, ere she end, 
She'll send them weeping one by one away.'! 


















Like a spectre about a tomb, she wanders for ever about the remains 
of her slain lover, languishes, grows pale, swoons, ends by causing her- 
self to be killed. Sadder still are those who, from duty or submission, 
allow themselves to be led to other nuptials. They are not resigned, 
do not recover, like Pauline in Polyeucte. They are shattered. Pen- 
thea, in the Broken Heart, is as upright, but not so strong, as Pauline ; 
she is the English wife, not the Roman, stoical and calm.? She despairs, 
sweetly, silently, and pines to death, In her innermost heart she holds 
herself married to him to whom she has pledged her soul: it is the 
marriage of the heart which in her eyes is alone genuine; the other is 
only disguised adultery. In marrying Bassanes she has sinned against 
Orgilus; moral infidelity is worse than legal infidelity, and thenceforth 
she is fallen in her own eyes. She says to her brother; 





1 Beaumont and Fletcher, The Maid's Tragedy, i. 1. 
* Pauline says, in Corneille’s Polyeucte (iii. 2): 
‘Avant qu’abandonner mon me & mes douleurs, 

Tl me faut essayer la force de mes pleurs ; 

En qualité de femme ou de fille, j’esptre 

Qu'ils vaincront un époux, ou fiédchiront un padre. 

Que si sur l'un et l'autre ils manquent de pouvoir, 
Je ne prendrai conseil que de mon désespoir, 
i a Apprends-moi cependant ce qu'ils ont fait au temple.’ 
| We conld not find a more reasonable and reasoning woman. So with Eliante, 

- Henriette, in Moliire. 


262 THE RENAISSANCE, 


* Pray, killme ss. 

Kill, me, pray ; nay, will you? 
Ithocles. How does thy lord esteem thee? P. Such an one 

As only you have made me ; a faith-breaker, 
A spotted whore ; forgive me, 1 am one— 
In act, not in desires, the gods must witness... . 
For she that’s wife to Orgilus, and lives 
In known adultery with Bassanes, - 
Is, at the best, a whore, Wilt killmenow?... 
The handmaid to the wages 
Of country toil, drinks the untroubled streams 
With leaping kids, and with the bleating lambs, 
And so allays her thirst secure ; whilst I 
Quench my hot sighs with fleetings of my tears."? : 


With tragic greatness, from the height of her incurable grief, she 
throws her gaze on life: 


* My glass of life, sweet princess, hath few minutes 
Remaining to run down ; the sands are spent; 
For by an inward messenger I feel 
The summons of departure short and certain. . . . Glories 
Of human greatness are but pleasing dreams, 

And shadows soon decaying ; on the stage 

Of my mortality, my youth hath acted 

Some scenes of vanity, drawn out at length 
By varied pleasures, sweeten’d in the mixture, 
But tragical in issue. . . . That remedy 
Must be a winding-sheet, a fold of lead, 

And some untrod-on corner in the earth.’? 


There is no revolt, no bitterness; she affectionately assists her brother 
who has caused her unhappiness; she tries to enable him to win the 


woman he loves; feminine kindness and sweetness overflow in her in - 


the depths of her despair. Love here is not despotic, passionate, as in 
southern climes, It is only deep and sad; the source of life is dried 
up, that is all; she lives no longer, because she cannot; all goes by 
degrees—health, reason, soul; in the end she becomes mad, and behold 
her dishevelled, with wide staring eyes, with broken words, For ten 
days she has not slept, and will not eat again; and the same fatal 
thought continually afflicts her heart, amidst vague dreams of maternal 
tenderness and happiness brought to nought, which come and go in her 
mind like phantoms: 
‘Sure, if we were all sirens, we should sing pitifully, 

And ’twere a comely music, when in parts 

One sung another’s knell ; the turtle sighs 

When he hath lost his mate ; and yet some say 

He must be dead first: ’tis a fine deceit 

To pass away in a dream! indeed, I’ve slept 





1 Ford’s Broken Heart, iii. 2. 2 Ibid. iii. 5. 








/ THE THEATRE. 263 


With mine eyes open, a great while. No falsehood © 

Equals a broken faith ; there's not a hair 

Sticks on my head, but, like a leaden plummet, 

It sinks me to the grave: 1 must creep thither ; 

The journey is not long. . . . 

Since I was first a wife, I might have been 

Mother to many pretty prattling babes ; 

They would have smiled when I smiled ; and, for certain, 

I should have cried when they cried :—truly, brother, 

My father would have pick’d me out a husband, 

And then my little ones had been no bastards ; 

But 'tis too late for me to marry now, 

I am past child-bearing ; 'tis not my fault. . .. 
Spare your hand ; 

Believe me, I'll not hurt it. . . . 

Complain not though I wring it hard : I'll kiss it ; 

Oh, ‘tis a fine soft palm !—hark, in thine ear ; 

Like whom do I look, prithee !—nay, no whispering. 

Goodness! we had been happy ; too much happiness 

Will make folk proud, they say. . . . 

There is no peace left for a ravish’d wife, 

Widow’'d by lawless marriage ; to all memory 

Penthea’s, poor Penthea’s name is strumpeted. . . . 

Forgive me; Oh! I faint.’? 


She dies, imploring that some gentle voice may sing her a plaintive air, 
a farewell ditty, a sweet funeral song. I know nothing in the drama 
more pure and touching. 

When we find a constitution of soul so new, and capable of such 
great effects, it behoves us to look at the bodies. Man’s extreme actions 
come not from his will, but his nature.* In order to understand the 
great tensions of the whole machine, we must look upon the whole 
machine,—I mean man’s temperament, the manner in which his blood 
flows, his nerves quiver, his muscles are interwoven: the moral 
interprets the physical, and human qualities have their root in the 
animal species, Consider then the species in this case—the race, that 
_ is; for the sisters of Shakspeare’s Ophelia and Virginia, Goethe’s Clara 
and Margaret, Otway’s Belvidera, Richardson's Pamela, constitute a 
race by themselves, soft and fair, with blue eyes, lily whiteness, 
blushing, of timid delicacy, serious sweetness, framed to yield, bend, 
cling. Their poets feel it clearly when they bring them on the 
stage; they surround them with the poetry which becomes them, the 
murmur of streams, the pendent willow-tresses, the frail and humid 
. flowers of the country, so like themselves: 


* Ford's Broken Heart, iv. 2. 

1 —_—__E Schopenhauer, Metaphysice of Love and Death. Swift also said that, death 
____ and Jove are the two things in which man is fundamentally irrational. In fact, 
__ iti the apecies andthe instinct which are displayed in them, not the will end 
“* individual, 


























264 THE RENAISSANCE. 


* The flower, that’s like thy face, pale primrose, nor 
The azure harebell, like thy veins ; no, nor 
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander, 
Out-sweeten’d not thy breath.’ 4 


They make them sweet, like the south wind, which with its gentle 
breath causes the violets to bend their heads, abashed at the slightest 
reproach, already half bowed down by a tender and dreamy melan- 
choly.* Philaster, speaking of Euphrasia, whom he takes for a page, 
and who has disguised herself in order to be near him, says: 
* Hunting the buck, 

I found him sitting, by a fountain-side, 

Of which he borrow’d some to quench his thirst, 

And paid the nymph again as imuch in tears. 

A garland lay him by, made by himself, 

Of many several flowers, bred in the bay, 

Stuck in that mystic order, that the rareness 

Delighted me: But ever when he turn’d 

His tender eyes upon ’em, he would weep, 

As if he meant to make ’em grow again. 

Seeing such pretty helpless innocence 

Dwell in his face, I ask’d him all his story. 

He told me, that his parents gentle dy’d, 

Leaving him to the mercy of the fields, 

Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs, 

Which did not stop their courses ; and the sun 

Which still, he thank’d him, yielded him his light. 

Then he took up his garland, and did shew 

What every flower, as country people hold, 

Did signify ; and how all, order’d thus, 

Express’d his grief ; And, to my thoughts, did read 

The prettiest lecture of his country art 

That could be wish’d. . « . I gladly entertained him, 

Who was as glad to follow ; and have got 

The trustiest, loving’st, and the gentlest boy 

That ever master kept.’ 
The idyl is self-produced among these human flowers; the drama 
delays before the angelic sweetness of their tenderness and modesty. 
Sometimes even the idyl is born complete and pure, and the whole 
theatre is occupied by a sentimental and poetical kind of opera. 
There are two or three such in Shakspeare; in rude Jonson, The 
Sad Shepherd; in Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess, Ridiculous 
titles nowadays, for they remind us of the interminable platitudes of 
d’'Urfé, or the affected conceits of Florian; charming titles, if we note 
the sincere and overflowing poetry which they contain. Amoret, the 
faithful shepherdess, lives in an imaginary country, full of old gods, 


1 Cymbeline, iv. 2. 
* The death of Ophelia, the obsequies of Imogen. 
3 Philaster, i. 1, 








id 
a eee ee ee 


wre) 


_— 











265 


_ yet English, like the dewy verdant landscapes in which Rubens sets 
his nymphs dancing: 
‘Thro’ yon same bending plain 
That flings his arms down to the main, 
And thro’ these thick woods have I ran, 
Whose bottom never kiss’d the sun 
Since the lusty spring began.’ . . . 
* For to that holy wood is consecrate 
A virtuous well, about whose flow’ry banks 
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds, 
S By the pale moon-shine, dipping oftentimes 
i, Their stolen children, so to make them free 
From dying flesh and dull mortality.’ . . .! 
*See the dew-drops, how they kiss 
Ev'ry little flower that is; 
Hanging on their velvet heads, 
4 Like a rope of christal beads. 
See the heavy clouds low 
And bright Hesperus down calling 
; The dead Night from underground.’ * 
These are the plants and the aspects of the ever fresh English country, 
now enveloped in a pale diaphanous mist, now glistening under the 
absorbing sun, teeming with plants so full of sap, so delicate, that in 
_ the midst of their most brilliant splendour and their most luxuriant 
life, we feel that to-morrow will wither them. There, on a summer- 
night, the young men and girls, after their custom,® go to gather flowers 
and plight their troth. Amoret and Perigot are together; Amoret, 
* Fairer far 
Than the chaste blushing morn, or that fair star 
That guides the wand'ring seaman thro’ the deep,’ 
modest like a virgin, and tender as a wife, says to Perigot: ca 
*I do believe thee: "Tis as hard for me : 
To think thee false, and harder, than for thee 
To hold me foul.’* 


SD Btrongly es 'ihe We ‘tried, her heart, once given, never draws back. ~ 
_ Perigot, deceived, driven to despair, persuaded that she is unchaste, — 
_ strikes her with his sword, and casts her bleeding to ground. 












drop from his watery locks’ into the wound : the chaste flesh closes at 


the touch of the divine water, and the maiden, recovering, goes once 
more in search of him she loves: 





«Speak if thou be here, 
Pe My Perigot! Thy Amoret, thy dear, 
| +4 Beaumont and Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess, i. 1. 


8 Ibid. ii. 1. 

® See the description in Nathan Drake, Shakepeare and his Times. 

_ * Beaumont and Fletcher. The Faithful Shepherdess, i. 1. 

: Me ‘ rhe 
Se +i 





266: THE RENAISSANCE. 


Calls on thy loved name. ... "Tis thy friend, 

Thy Amoret ; come hither to give end 

To these consumings. Look up, gentle boy; 

I have forgot those pains and dear annoy 

I suffer’d for thy sake, and am content 

To be thy love again. Why hast thou rent 

Those curled locks, where I have often hung 
Ribbons, and damask roses, and have flung 

Waters distill’d to make thee fresh and gay, 
Sweeter than nosegays on a bridal day? — 

Why dost thou cross thine arms, and hang thy face 
Down to thy bosom, letting fall apace, 

From those two little Heav’ns, upon the ground, 
Show’rs of more price, more orient, and more round, 
Than those that hang upon the moon’s pale brow ? 
Cease these complainings, shepherd! I am now 
The same I ever was, as kind and free, 

And can forgive before you ask of me: 

Indeed, I can and will.’ 


Who could resist her sweet and sad smile? Still deceived, Perigot 


wounds her again ; she falls, but without anger. 
‘So this work hath end! 

Farewell, and live! be constant to thy friend 

That loves thee next.’? 
A nymph cures her, and at last Perigot, disabused, comes and throws 
himself on his knees before her. She stretches out her arms; in spite 
of all that he had done, she was not changed: 

‘I am thy love! 

Thy Amoret, for evermore thy love ! 

Strike once more on my naked breast, I’ll prove 

As constant still. Oh, cou’dst thou love me yet, 

How soon could I my former griefs forget !’* 


Such are the touching and poetical figures which these poets in- 
troduce in their dramas, or in connection with their dramas, amidst 
murders, assassinations, the clash of swords, the howl of slaughter, in 
contrast with the furious men who adore or woo them, like them car- 
ried to excess, transported by their tenderness as the others by their 
violence: it is the complete exposition, the perfect opposition of the 
feminine instinct led to self-abandoning recklessness, and the masculine 
harshness led to murderous rage. Thus built up and thus provided, 
the drama of the age was enabled to exhibit the inner depths of 
man, and to set in motion the most powerful human emotions; to 
bring upon the stage Hamlet and Lear, Ophelia and Cordelia, the death 
of Desdemona and the butcheries of Macbeth. 





1 The Faithful Shepherdess, iv. 2 Ibid, 
3 Ibid. v. Compare, as an illustration of the contrast of races, the Italian 
pastorals, Tasso’s Aminta, Guarini’s Jl Pastor fido, etc. 


























CHAPTER IIL 
4 Ben Jonson. 

I. The masters of the school, in the school and in their age—Jonson—His mood 
—Character—Education—First efforts —Struggles— Poverty —Sickness— 
Death, 

IL, His learning—Classical tastes—Didactic characters—Good management of 
his plots—Freedom and precision of his style—Vigour of his will and 


passion, 

HI. His dramas—Catiline and Sejanus—How he was able to depict the personages 
and the passions of the Roman decadence. 

IV. His comedies—His reformation and theory of the theatre—His satirical 
comedies— Volpone—Why these comedies are serious and warlike—How 
they depict the passions of the Renaissance—His farces—The Silent Woman 
—Why these comedies are energetic and ruade—How they conform with the 
tastes of the Renaissance. 

V. Limits of his talent—Wherein he remains beneath Molitre—Want of higher 
philosophy and comic gaiety—His imagination and fancy—The Staple of 
News and Cynthia's Revels—How he treats the comedy of society, and 
lyrical comedy—His smaller poems—His masques—Theatrical and pictu- 
resque manners of the court—The Sad Shepherd—How Jonson remains a 
poet to his death. 

VI. General idea of Shakspeare—The fundamental idea in Shakspeare—Conditions 
of human reason—Shakspeare’s master faculty—Conditions of exact repre- 
sentation. 

L 


HEN a new civilisation brings a new art to light, there are about 

a dozen men of talent who express the general idea, surround- 

_ ing one or two men of genius who express it thoroughly. Guilhem 
de Castro, Pérés de Montalvan, Tirso de Molina, Ruiz de Alarcon, 


Van Oost, Romboust, Van Thulden, Van Dyk, Honthorst, 
q Rubens; Ford, Marlowe, Massinger, Webster, Beaumont, Fletcher, sur- 
and Ben Jonson. The first constitute the chorus, 


268 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK IL. 


trade. It is not in him, but in great men like Ben Jonson and Shak- 
speare, that we must look for the attainment of his idea and the fulness 
of his art. ‘Numerous were the wit-combats,’ says Fuller, ‘ betwixt 
him (Shakspeare) and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish 
great galleon and an English man-of-war. Master Jonson (like the 
former) was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his perfor- 
mances. Shakspeare, with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but 
lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advan- 
tage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.’ Such 
was Jonson physically and morally, and his portraits do but confirm 
this just and lively sketch: a vigorous, heavy, and uncouth person; a 
wide and long face, early marred by scurvy, a square jaw, enormous 
cheeks ; his animal organs as much developed as those of his intellect: 
the sour aspect of a man in a passion or on the verge of a passion; to 
which add the body of an athlete, about forty years of age, ‘ mountain 
belly, ungracious gait.’ Such was the outside, and the inside is like it. 
He was a genuine Englishman, big and coarsely framed, energetic, 
combative, proud, often morose, and prone to strange splenetic imagi- 
nations. He related to Drummond that for a whole night he imagined 
‘that he saw the Carthaginians and the Romans fighting on his great 
toe.’* Not that he is melancholic by nature; on the contrary, he loves 
to escape from himself by a wide and blustering licence of merriment, 
by copious and varied converse, assisted by good Canary wine, with 
which he drenches himself, and which ends by becoming a necessity to 
him. These great phlegmatic butchers’ frames require a generous liquor 
to give them a tone, and to supply the place of the sun which they 
lack. Expansive moreover, hospitable, even prodigal, with a frank 
imprudent heartiness,* making him forget himself wholly before Drum- 


mond, his Scotch host, a vigorous and malicious pedant, who has — 


marred his ideas and vilified his character. What we know of his life 
is in harmony with his person: he suffered much, fought much, dared 
much, He was studying at Cambridge, when his father-in-law, a 
bricklayer, recalled him, and set him to the trowel. He ran away, 
enlisted as a volunteer into the army of the Low Countries, killed and 
despoiled a man in single combat, ‘in the view of both armies.’ You 
see he was a man of bodily action, and that he exercised his limbs in 
early life.* On his return to England, at the age of nineteen, he went 
on the stage for his livelihood, and occupied himself also in touching up 
dramas. Having been provoked, he fought, was seriously wounded, but 
killed his adversary; after that, he was cast into prison, and found 





* Fuller’s Wor'thies, ed. Nuttall, 1840, 3 vols., iii. 284. 

® There is a similar hallucination to be met with in the life of Lord Castlereagh, 
who afterwards cut his throat, 

3 His character lies between those of Fielding and Samuel Johnson. 
. At the age of forty-four he went to Scotland on foot. 





i tn A 




























° ab é a , 
‘ r 7 j “* 
. - ' : f - ‘ . . 
‘CMAP. II. BEN JONSON. 269 
° = ‘ 
@ 


himself ‘nigh the gallows.’ A Catholic priest visited and converted 
him ; quitting his prison penniless, at twenty years of age, he married. 
At last, two years later, he produced his first play. Children came, 
he must earn them bread; and he was not of the stuff to follow the 
beaten track to the end, being persuaded that a fine philosophy ought 
to be introduced into comedy, a special nobleness and dignity,—that it 
was necessary to follow the example of the ancients, to imitate their 
severity and their accuracy, to be above the theatrical racket and the 
rude improbabilities in which the common herd delighted. He openly 
proclaimed his intention in his prefaces, roundly railed at his rivals, 
proudly set forth on the stage" his doctrines, his morality, his character. 
He thus made bitter enemies, who defamed him outrageously and before 
their audiences, whom he exasperated by the violence of his satires, 
and against whom he struggled without intermission to the end. 
More, he constituted himself a judge of the public corruption, rudely 
attacked the reigning vices, ‘fearing no strumpets drugs, nor ruffians 
stab.” He treated his hearers like schoolboys, and spoke to them always 
like a censor and a master. If necessary, he ventured further. His com- 
panions, Marston and Chapman, had been put in prison for an irreverent 
phrase in one of their pieces; and the report spreading that their noses 
and ears were to be slit, Jonson, who had taken part in the piece, 
voluntarily made himself a prisoner, and obtained their pardon. On 
his return, amid the feasting and rejoicing, his mother showed him a 
violent poison which she intended to put into his drink, to save him 
from the sentence; and ‘to show that she was not a coward,’ adds 
Jonson, ‘ she had resolved to drink first.’ We see that in the matter 
of vigorous actions he found examples in his own family. Toward 
the end of his life, money failed him; he was liberal, improvident ; 
his pockets always had holes in them, as his hand was always open; 
though he had written a vast quantity, he was obliged to write still in 
order to live. Paralysis came on, his scurvy was aggravated, dropsy 
attacked him. He could not leave his room, nor walk without assist- 
ance. His last plays did not succeed. In the epilogue to the Vew 
Inn he says: 

» * If you expect more than you had to-night, 

The maker is sick and sad. eee 

All that his faint and falt'ring tongue doth crave, 

Is, that you not impute it to his brain, 

That's yet unhurt, altho’ set round with pain, 
>. It cannot long hold out.’ 

His enemies brutally insulted him : 

‘ “Thy Pegasus. . « 
He had bequeathed his belly unto thee, 
To hold that little learning which is fled 
Into thy guts from out thy emptye head.’ 


1 Parts of Crites and Asper. 2 Beery Man out of his Humour, i. 





> 





270 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 





Inigo Jones, his colleague, deprived him of the patronage of the court. 
-He was obliged to beg a supply of money from the Lord Treasurer, 
then from the Earl of Newcastle : 


* Disease, the enemy, and his engineers, 
Want, with the rest of his concealed compeers, 
Have cast a trench about me, now five years. . . « 
The muse not peeps out, one of hundred days ; 
But lies blocked up and straitened, narrowed in, 
Fixed to the bed and boards, unlike to win 
Health, or scarce breath, as she had never been.”! 


His wife and children were dead; he lived alone, forsaken, served by 
an old woman. Thus almost always, sadly and miserably is dragged out 
and ends the last act of the human comedy. After so many years, after 
so many sustained efforts, amid so much glory and genius, we find a 
poor shattered body, drivelling and suffering, between a servant and a 
priest. 


Il. 


- This is the life of a combatant, bravely endured, worthy of the seven- 
teenth century by its crosses and its energy; courage and force abounded 
throughout. Few writers have laboured more, and more conscienti- 
ously ; his knowledge was vast, and in this age of great scholars he 
was one of the best classics of his time, as deep as he was accurate 
and thorough, having studied the minutest details of ancient life. It 
was not enough for him to have stored himself from the best writers, 
to have their whole works continually in his mind, to scatter his pages, 
whether he would or no, with recollections of them. He dug into the 
orators, critics, scholiasts, grammarians, and compilers of inferior rank; 
he picked up stray fragments; he took characters, jokes, refinements, 
from Atheneus, Libanius, Philostratus. He had so well entered into 
and digested the Greek and Latin ideas, that they were incorporated 
with his own. They enter into his ‘speech without discord; they 
spring forth in him as vigorous as at their first birth; he originates 
even when he remembers. On every subject he had this thirst for 
knowledge, and this gift of mastering knowledge. He knew alchemy 
when he wrote the Alchemist. He is familiar with alembics, retorts, 
receivers, as if he had passed his life seeking after the philosopher's 
stone. He explains incineration, calcination, imbibition, rectification, 
reverberation, as well as Agrippa and Paracelsus. If he speaks of cos- 
metics,* he brings out a shopful of them; one might make out of his 
plays a dictionary of the oaths and costumes of courtiers; he seems to 
have a specialty in all branches. A still greater proof of his force is, 





1 Ben Jonson’s Poems, ed, Bell, An Epistle Mendicant, to Richard, Lord 
Weston, Lord High Treasurer (1631), p. 244. 
2 The Devil is an Ass. 











CHAP, IIL] BEN JONSON. 271 


that his learning in nowise mars his vigour; heavy as is the mass with 
which he loads himself, he carries it without stooping. This wonderful 
compound of reading and observation suddenly begins to move, and 
falls like a mountain on the overwhelmed reader. We must hear Sir 
Epicure Mammon unfold the vision of splendours and debauchery, in 
which he means to plunge, when he has learned to make gold. The 
refined and unchecked impurities of the Roman decadence, the splendid 
obscenities of Heliogabalus, the gigantic fancies of luxury and lewdness, 
tables of gold spread with foreign dainties, draughts of dissolved pearls, 
nature devastated to provide a single dish, the crimes committed by 
sensuality, against nature, reason, and justice, the delight in defying 
and outraging law,—all these images pass before the eyes with the dash 
of a torrent and the force of a great river. Phrase on phrase, event 
upon event, ideas and facts crowd into the dialogue to paint a situation, 
to give clearness to a character, produced from this deep memory, 
directed by this solid logic, launched by this powerful reflection. It is 
a pleasure to see him advance under the weight of so many observa- 
tions and recollections, loaded with technical details and learned remi- 
niscences, without deviation or pause, a genuine literary Leviathan, 
like the war elephants which used to bear towers, men, weapons, ma~- 
chines on their backs, and ran as swiftly under the freight as a nimble 
steed. 

In the great dash of this heavy advance, he finds a path which suits 
him. He has his style. Classical erudition and education made him a 
classic, and he writes like his Greek models and his Roman masters. The 
more we study the Latin races and literatures in contrast with the Teu- 
tonic, the more fully we become convinced that the proper and distinctive 
gift of the first is the art of development, that is, of drawing up ideas 
in connected rank, according to the rules of rhetoric and eloquence, by 
studied transitions, with regular progress, without shock or discontinuity. 
Jonson received from his acquaintance with the ancients the habit of 
decomposing ideas, unfolding them part by part in natural order, mak- 
ing himself understood and believed. From the first thought to the 
final conclusion, he conducts the reader by a continuous and uniform 
ascent. The track never fails with him, as with Shakspeare. He does 
not advance like the rest by sudden intuitions, but by consecutive 
deductions ; we can walk with him without need of bounding, and we 
are continually kept upon the straight path: antithesis of words unfolds 
antithesis of thoughts; symmetrical phrases guide the mind through 
difficult ideas; they are like barriers set on either side of the road to 
prevent our falling in the ditch. We do not meet on our way extra- 
ordinary, sudden, brilliant images, which might dazzle or delay us; we 
travel on, enlightened by moderate and sustained metaphors, Jonson 
has all the procedures of Latin art; even, when he wishes it, especially 
on Latin subjects, he has the last and most erudite, the brilliant con- 
cision of Seneca and Lucan, the parallel equipoised, filed off antitheses, 


272 THE RENAISSANCE. | [BOOK Il. 


the most happy and studied artifices of oratorical architecture. Other 
poets for the most part are visionaries ; Jonson is al] but a logician. 
Hence his talent, his successes, and his faults: if he has a better 
style and better plots than the others, he is not, like them, a creator 
of souls. He is too much of a theorist, too preoccupied by rules. His 
argumentative habits spoil him when he seeks to shape and motion com- 
plete, and living men. Ne one is capable of fashioning these unless 
he possesses, like Shakspeare, the imagination of a seer. The human 
being is so complex, that the logician who perceives his different ele- 
ments in succession can hardly study them all, much less gather them 
all in one flash, so as to produce the dramatic response or action in 
which they are concentrated, and which would manifest them. To dis- 
cover such actions and responses, we need a kind of inspiration and 
fever. ‘Then the mind works as in a dream, The characters move 
within the poet, almost involuntarily: he waits for them to speak, 
he remains motionless, hearing their voices, withdrawn into himself, in 
order that he may not. disturb the drama which they are about to act 
in his soul. That is his artifice: to let them alone. He is altogether 
astonished at their discourse ; as he observes them, he forgets that it is 
he who invents them. Their mood, character, education, disposition of 
mind, situation, attitude, and actions, make up to him so well-connected 
a whole, and so readily unite into palpable and solid beings, that he 
dares not attribute to his reflection or reasoning a creation so vast and 
speedy. Beings are organised in him as in nature, that is, of themselves, 
and by a force which the combinations of his art could not replace.* 
Jonson has nothing wherewith to replace it but these combinations 
of art. He chooses a general idea— cunning, folly, severity —and 
makes a person out of it. This person is called Crites, Asper, Sordido, 
Deliro, Pecunia, Subtil, and the transparent name indicates the logical 


process which produced it. The poet took an abstract quality, and _ 


putting together all the acts to which it may give rise, trots it out on 
the stage in a man’s dress. His characters, like those of la Bruyére 
and Theophrastus, were hammered out of solid deductions. Now it isa 


vice selected from the catalogue of moral philosophy, sensuality thirst- _ 


ing for gold: this perverse double inclination becomes a personage, Sir 
Epicure Mammon ; before the alchemist, before the famulus, before his 
friend, before his mistress, in public or alone, all his words denote a 
greed of pleasure and of gold, and they express nothing more. Now 
it is a piece of madness gathered from the old sophists, a babbling 
with horror of noise; this form of mental pathology becomes a per- 
sonage, Morose; the poet has the air of a doctor who has undertaken 





1 Sejanus, Catilina, passim, 

* Alfred de Musset, preface to La Coupe et les Levres. Plato: on. 

® Compare Sir Epicure Mammon with Baron Hulot from Balzac’s Oousine Bette, 
Balzac, who is learned like Jonson, creates real beings like Shakspeare, 





; 
\ 


| 





OMAP. mr] BEN JONSON. 273 


the task of recording exactly all the desires of speech, all the necessities 
of silence, and of recording nothing else. Now he picks out a laughable 
incident, an affectation, a species of folly, from the manners of the 
dandies and the courtiers; a mode of swearing, an extravagant style, 
a habit of gesticulating, or any other oddity contracted by vanity. or 
fashion. The hero whom he covers with these eccentricities, is overloaded 
by them. He disappears beneath his enormous trappings; he drags them 
about with him everywhere; he cannot get rid of them for an instant. 
We no longer see the man under the dress; he is like a mannikin, 

under a cloak, too heavy for him. Sometimes, doubtless, his 
habits of geometrical construction produce personages almost life-like. 
Bobadil, the grave boaster; Captain Tucea, the begging bully, inventive 
buffoon, ridiculous talker; Amorphus the traveller, a pedantic doctor of 
good manners, laden with eccentric phrases, create as much illusion as 
one can wish ; but it is because they are flitting comicalities and low 
characters, It is not necessary for a poet to study such creatures; it 
is enough that he discovers in them three or four leading features; it 
is of little consequence if they always present themselves in the same 
light: they produce laughter, like the Countess d’Escarbagnas or any of 
the Facheux in Moliére; we want nothing else of them. On the con- 
trary, the others weary and repel us. They are stage-masks, not living 
figures. Moulded into a fixed expression, they persist to the end of 
the piece in their unvarying grimace or their eternal frown. A man 
is not an abstract passion. He stamps the vices and virtues which he 
possesses with his individual mark. These vices and virtues receive, on 
entering into him, a bent and form which they have not in others. No 
one is unmixed sensuality. Take.a thousand sensualists, and you will 
find a thousand modes of sensuality; for there are a thousand paths, a 
thousand circumstances and degrees, in sensuality. To make Sir Epi- 
cure Mammon a real being, we must give him the kind of disposition, 
the species of education, the manner of imagination, which produce 
sensuality. When we wish to construct a man, we must dig down to 
the foundations of mankind; that is, we must define to ourselves the 
structure of his bodily machine, and the primitive gait of his mind. 
Jonson has not dug sufficiently deep, and his constructions are incom- 
plete; he has built on the surface, and he has built but a single story. 
He was not acquainted with man in his fulness, and he ignored man’s 
basis ; he put on the stage and gave a representation of moral treatises, 
fragments of history, scraps of satire; he did not stamp new beings on 


_ the imagination of mankind. 


He possesses all the other gifts, and in particular the classical ; 
first of all, the talent for composition. For the first time we see a con- 
cocted plot, a complete intrigue, with its beginning, middle, and end; 
subordinate actions well arranged, well combined; an interest which 
grows and never flags; a leading truth which all the events combine to 
demonstrate; a ruling idea which all the characters combine to illustrate; 

5 


274 THE RENAISSANCE, [BOOK It, 


in short, an art like that which Moliére and Racine were about to apply 
and ieeck: He does not, like Shakspeare, take a novel from Greene, a 
chronicle from Holinshed, a life from Plutarch, promiscuously, to cut 
them into scenes, irrespective of likelihood, indifferent as to order and 
unity, caring only to set up men, at times wandering into poetic reveries, 
at need finishing up the piece abruptly with a recognition or a butchery. 
He governs himself and his characters; he wills and he knows all that 
they do, and all that he does. But beyond his habits of Latin regularity, 
he possesses the great faculty of his age and race,—the sentiment of 
nature and existence, the exact knowledge of precise detail, the power 
in frankly and boldly handling frank passions. This gift is not wanting 
in any writer of the time; they do not fear words that are true, shock- 
ing, and striking details of the bedchamber or medical study; the 
prudery of modern England and the refinement of monarchical France 
veil not the nudity of their figures, or dim the colouring of their 
pictures. They live freely, liberally, amidst living things; they see 
the ins and outs of lust, raging without shame, hypocrisy, or redeeming 
softness; and they exhibit it as they see it, Jonson as boldly as the 
rest, occasionally more boldly than the rest, strengthened as he is by 
the vigour and roughness of his athletic temperament, by the extraordi- 
nary exactness and abundance of his observations and his knowledge. 
Add yet his moral loftiness, his sourness, his powerful railing wrath, 
exasperated and bitter against vice, his resolution strengthened by pride 
and by conscience: 


* With an armed and resolved hand, 
I'll strip the ragged follies of the time 
Naked as at their birth . . . and with a whip of steel, 
Print wounding lashes in their iron ribs. 
I fear no mood stampt in a private brow, 
When I am pleas’d t’ unmask a public vice. 
I fear no strumpets drugs, nor ruffians stab, 
Should I detect their hateful luxuries ;’! 


above all, a scorn of base compliance, a disdain for 
“Those jaded wits 
That run a broken pace for common hire,’—* 
an enthusiasm, or deep love of 


‘A happy muse, 
Born on the wings of her immortal thought, 
That kicks at earth with a disdainful heel, 
And beats at heaven gates with her bright hoofs,’ 


Such are the energies which he brought to the drama and to comedy; 
they were great enough to ensure him a high position, and a position 
apart. 


1 Every Man out of his Humour, Prologue. ® Poetaster, i. 2, 3 Ibid. 











BEN JONSON. — 275 


























For whatever Jonson undertakes, whatever be his faults, haughti- 
ness, rough-handling, predilection for morality and the past, antiquarian 
and censorious instincts, he is never little or commonplace. It signifies 
nothing that in his Latinised tragedies, S¢janus, Catiline, he is fettered 
by the worship of the old worn models of the Roman decadence; 
nothing that he plays the scholar, hammers out Ciceronian harangues, 
hauls in choruses imitated from Seneca, holds forth in the style of Lucan 
and the rhetoricians of the empire: he more than once attains a genuine 
accent; through his pedantry, heaviness, literary adoration of the 
ancients, nature forces its way; he lights, at his first attempt, on the 
crudities, horrors, gigantic lechery, shameless depravity of imperial 
Rome; he takes in hand and sets in motion the lusts and ferocities, the 
passions of courtesans and princesses, the daring of assassins and of 
great men, which produced Messalina, Agrippina, Catiline, Tiberius.* 
In the Rome which he places before us we go boldly and straight to 
the end ;| justice and pity oppose no barriers.‘ Amid victorious and 
slavish customs, human nature is upset; corruption and crime are held 
as marks of insight and energy. Observe how, in S¢janus, assassination 
is plotted and carried out with marvellous coolness. Livia discusses 
with Sejanus the methods of poisoning her husband, in a clear style, 
without circumlocution, as if the subject were how to gain a lawsuit 
or how to serve up a dinner. There are no equivocations, no hesita- 
tion, no remorse in the Rome of Tiberius. Glory and virtue consist in | 
power; scruples are for common souls; the mark of a lofty heart is to 
desire all and to dare all. Macro says rightly: 

* Men’s fortune there is virtue ; reason their will ; 

Their licence, law ; and their observance skill. 
Occasion is their foil ; conscience, their stain ; 

’ Profit, their lustre ; and what else is vain.’* 


Sejanus addresses Livia thus: 


These are the loves of the wolf and his mate; he praises her for 
being so ready to kill. And observe in one moment the morals of a 
___ prostitute appear behind the manners of the poisoner. Sejanus goes out, 
apd immediately, like a courtesan, Livia turns to her physician, saying : 





1 See the second Act of Catiline, . 
® The Fall of Sejanus, iii. last Scene. ® Ibid. ti. 


276 THE RENAISSANCE. [Book 11. 


® How do I look to-day ? 

Eudemus. Excellent clear, believe it. This same fucus 
Was well laid on. JL. Methinks ’tis here not white, 

£. Lend me your scarlet, lady. ’Tis the sun 
Hath giv’n some little taint unto the ceruse, 
You should have us’d of the white oil I gave you. 
Sejanus, for your love! His very name 
Commandeth above Cupid or his shafts. . . . 

’Tis now well, lady, you should 

Use of the dentifrice I prescrib’d you too, 
To clear your teeth, and the prepar’d pomatum, 
To smooth the skin. <A lady cannot be 
Too curious of her form, that still would hold 
The heart of such a person, made her captive, 
As you have this: who, to endear him more 
In your clear eye, hath put away his wife... 
Fair Apicata, and made spacious room 
To your new pleasures. J. Have we not return’d 
That with our hate to Drusus, and discovery 
Of all his tounsels?.. , 

£. When will you take some physick, lady? Z. When 
I shall, Eudemus: but let Drusus’ drug 
Be first prepar’d. ZZ. Were Lygdus made, that’s done. ... 
T'll send you a perfume, first to resolve 
And procure sweat, and then prepare a bath 
To cleanse and clear the cutis ; against when 
I'll have an excellent new fucus made 
Resistive ’gainst the sun, the rain or wind, 
Which you shall lay on with a breath or oil, 
As you best like, and last some fourteen hours. 
This change came timely, lady, for your health.’# 


He ends by congratulating her on her approaching change of husbands : 
Drusus was injuring her complexion; Sejanus is far preferable; a 
physiological and practical conclusion. The Roman apothecary had on 
the same shelf his medicine-chest, his chest of cosmetics, and his chest 
of poisons.? 

After this you find one after another all the scenes of Roman life 
unfolded, the bargain of murder, the comedy of justice, the shameless- 
ness of flattery, the anguish and vacillation of the senate. When 
Sejanus wishes to buy a conscience, he questions, jokes, plays round 
the offer he is about to make, throws it out as if in pleasantry, so as 
to be able to withdraw it, if need be; then, when the intelligent look 
of the rascal, whom he is trafficking with, shows that he is understood : 





1 The Fall of Sejanus, ii. 
* See Catiline, Act ii. ; a fine scene, no less frank and lively, on the dissipation 
of the higher ranks in Rome. 


— Ee oe LL Lv 
eee V - 


Es 


BEN JONSON, 277 


* Protest not. 
Thy looks are vows to me. .. . 
Thou art a man, made to make consuls. Go.'? 


Elsewhere, the senator Latiaris brings to him his friend Sabinus, storms 
before the latter against tyranny, openly expresses a desire for liberty, 
provoking him to speak. Then two spies who were hid behind the 
a themselves on Sabinus, crying, ‘Treason to Cesar!’ and 
drag EE 












thrown upon the Gemonies.’* So, when the senate is assembled, 
Tiberius has chosen beforehand the accusers of Silius, and their parts 
distributed to them. They mumble in a corner, whilst aloud is heard, 


in the emperor's presence ; 
* Cusar, 


Live long and happy, great and royal Cesar ; 
The gods preserve thee and thy modesty, 
Thy wisdom and thy innocence. . . . Guard 


His meekness, Jove, his piety, his care, 

His bounty.’ 

en the herald cites the accused; Varro, the consul, pronounces the 
indictment; Afer hurls upon them his bloodthirsty eloquence: the 
senators get excited ; we see laid bare, as in Tacitus and Juvenal, the 
depths of Roman servility, hypocrisy, insensibility, the venomous craft 
of Tiberius. At last, after so many others, the turn of Sejanus comes. 


high positions. They mark the face of Sejanus, and know not what 
to anticipate ; Sejanus is troubled, then after a moment's cringing is 
more arrogant than ever. The plots are confused, the rumours con- 


earliest sound. The formula of convocation is read, and the council 
marks the names of those who do not respond to the summons; then 
Regulus addresses them, and announces that Cesar 


* Propounds to this grave senate, the bestowing 
Upon the man he loves, honour’d Sejanus, 
The tribunitial dignity and power: 
Here are his letters, signed with his signet. 
What pleaseth now the Fathers to be done!’ 
* Senators. Read, read ‘em, open, publicly read ‘em. 
Cotta, Cesar hath honour'd his own greatness much 
In thinking of this act. Zio, It was « thought 
Happy, and worthy Cesar. Latiaris, And the lord 
As worthy it, on whom it is directed ! 





1 The Fall of Sejanus, i. * Ibid. iv. 9 Tbid. iii, 


278 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK It 


Haterius. Most worthy! Sanquinius. Rome did never boast the virtue 
That could give envy bounds, but his: Sejanus.— 

1st Sen. Honour’d and noble! 2d Sen. Good and great Sejanus ! 

Precones. Silence!’? 


Tiberius’ letter is read. First, long obscure and vague phrases, 
mingled with indirect protests and accusations, foreboding something 
and revealing nothing. Suddenly comes an insinuation against Se- 
janus. The fathers are alarmed, but the next line reassures them. 
A word or two further on, the same insinuation is repeated with 
greater exactness. ‘Some there be that would interpret this his 
public severity to be particular ambition; and that, under a pretext 
of service to us, he doth but remove his own lets: alledging the 
strengths he hath made to himself, by the pretorian soldiers, by his 
faction in court and senate, by the offices he holds himself, and con- 
fers on others, his popularity and dependents, his urging (and almost 
driving) us to this our unwilling retirement, and lastly, his aspiring 
to be our son-in-law.’ The fathers rise: ‘This ’s strange!’ Their 
eager eyes are fixed on the letter, on Sejanus, who perspires and grows 
pale; their thoughts are busy with conjectures, and the words of the 
letter fall one by one, amidst a sepulchral silence, caught as they fall 
with a devouring eagerness of attention. The senators anxiously weigh 
the value of these varying expressions, fearing to compromise them- 
selves with the favourite or with the prince, all feeling that they must 
understand, if they value their lives, 


* Your wisdoms, Conscript Fathers, are able to examine, and censure these 
suggestions. But, were they left to our absolving voice, we durst pronounce them, 
as we think them, most malicious.” 

Senator. O, he has restor’d all ; list. 

Preco. *‘Yet are they offer’d to be averr’d, and on the lives of the informers.”’? 


At this word the letter becomes menacing. Those next Sejanus 
forsake him. ‘Sit farther. ... Let’s remove!’ The heavy Sanquinius 
' leaps panting over the *benches. The soldiers come in; then Macro. 
And now, at last, the letter orders the arrest of Sejanus. 


* Regulus. Take him hence. 
And all the gods guard Cesar! Trio. Take him hence. 
Haterius. Hence. Cotta. To the dungeon with him. San. He deserves it. 
Sen, Crown all our doors with bays. San. And let an ox, 
With gilded horns and garlands, straight be led 
Unto the Capitol. Hat. And sacrific’d 
To Jove, for Cesar’s safety. T'rio. All our gods 
Be present still to Cesar! ... 
Cotta. Let all the traitor’s titles be defac’d. 
Trio, His images and statues be pull’d down. . . . 





1 The Fall of Sejanu,v. . 2 hid. 





i 
\ 
yi 
| 
f 
I 
f 
y 
+ 





CHAP. Il] BEN JONSON. 279 


Sen, Liberty! liberty! liberty! Lead on, 
And praise to Macro that hath saved Rome."' 

It is the baying of a furious pack of hounds, let loose at last on him, 
under whose hand they had crouched, and who had for a long time 
beaten and bruised them. Jonson discovered in his own energetic soul 
the energy of these Roman passions; and the clearness of his mind, 
added to his profound knowledge, unable to construct characters, fur- 
nished him with general ideas and striking incidents, which suffice to 
depict manners. 

IV. 

Moreover, it was to this that he turned his talent. Nearly all his 
work consists of comedies, not sentimental and fanciful as Shakspeare’s, 
but imitative and satirical, written to represent and correct follies and 
vices. He introduced a new model; he had a doctrine; his masters 
were Terence and Plautus. He observes the unity of time and place, 
almost exactly. He ridicules the authors, who, in the same play, 

* Make a child now-swaddled, to proceed 

Man, and then shoot up, in one beard and weed, 
Past threescore years; or, with three rusty swords, 
And help of some few foot and half-foot words, 
Fight over York and Lancaster's long jars. . . . 

He rather prays you will be pleas’d to see 

One such to-day, as other plays should be ; 

Where neither chorus wafts you o’er the seas, 

Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please: 
Nor nimble squib is seen to make afeared 

The gentlewomen. . . . 

But deeds, and language, such as men do use. . . . 
You, that have so grac’d monsters, may like men."? 


Men, as we see them in the streets, with their whims and humours— 


“When some one peculiar quality 
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw 
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers 
In their confluxions, all to run one way, 
This may be truly said to be a humour.’* 


It is these humours which he exposes to the light, not with the artist's 
curiosity, but with the moralist’s hate: 


‘I will scourge those apes, 
And to these courteous eyes oppose a mirrour, 
As large as is the stage whereon we act ; 
Where they shall see the time's deformity 
Anatomiz’d in every nerve, and sinew, 
With constant courage and contempt of fear. . . 





1 The Fall of Sejanus, v. * Every Man in his Humour, Prologue. 
3 Kvery Man out of his Humour, Prologue. : 


280 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


; My strict hand 
Was made to seize on vice, and with a gripe 
Squeeze out the humour of such spongy natures, 
As lick up every idle vanity.’? 

Doubtless a determination so strong and decided does violence to the 
dramatic spirit. Jonson’s comedies are not rarely harsh; his characters 
are too grotesque, laboriously constructed, mere automatons; the poet 
thought less of making living beings than of scotching a vice; the 
scenes get arranged mechanically, or are confused together; we see the 
process, we feel the satirical intention throughout; delicate and easy- 
flowing imitation is absent, as well as the graceful sprightliness which 
abounds in Shakspeare. But if Jonson comes across harsh passions, 
visibly evil and vile, he will derive from his energy and wrath the 
talent to render them odious and visible, and will produce a Volpone, 
a sublime work, the sharpest picture of the manners of the age, in 
which is displayed the full brightness of the evil lusts, in which lewd- 
ness, cruelty, love of gold, shamelessness of vice, display a sinister yet 
splendid poetry, worthy of one of Titian’s bacchanalians.? All this 
makes itself apparent in the first scene, when Volpone says: 

* Good morning to the day ; and next, my gold: 
Open the shrine, that I may see my saint!’ 
This saint is his piles of gold, jewels, precious plate: 
* Hail the world’s soul, and mine! . . . O thou son of Sol, 
But brighter than thy father, let me kiss, 
With adoration, thee, and every relick 
Of sacred treasure in this blessed room !’% 
Presently after, the dwarf, the eunuch, and the hermaphrodite of 
the house sing a sort of pagan and fantastic interlude; they chant in 
strange verses the metamorphoses of the hermaphrodite, who was first 


the soul of Pythagoras. We are at Venice, in the palace of the mag- . 


nifico Volpone. These deformed creatures, the splendour of gold, this 
strange and poetical buffoonery, transport the thought immediately to 
the sensual city, queen of vices and of arts. 

The rich Volpone lives in the antique style. Childless and without 
relatives, playing the invalid, he makes all his flatterers hope to be his 
heir, receives their gifts, 

* Letting the cherry knock against their lips, 
And draw it by their mouths, and back again.’* 
Glad to have their gold, but still more glad to deceive them, artistic in 
guile as in avarice, and just as pleased to look at a contortion of suffer- 
ing as at the sparkle of a ruby. 





1 Every Man out of his Humour, Prologue. 

? Compare Volpone with Regnard’s Légataire ; the end of the sixteenth with 
the beginning of the eighteenth century. 

8 Volpone, i. 1. 4 Ibid. 


ee 


) BEN JONSON. 281 
The advocate Voltore arrives, bearing a ‘huge piece of plate.’ 
Volpone casts himself on his bed, wraps himself in furs, heaps up 
his pillows, and coughs as if at the point of death: 

* Volpone, 1 thank you, signior Voltore, 
Where is the plate? mine eyes are bad. . . . Your love 
Hath taste in this, and shall not be unanswer'd’. . . 


I cannot now last long. . . . I feel me going,— 
Uh, uh, uh, uh!’* 


He closes his eyes, as though exhausted: 


* Voltore. Am I inscrib'd his heir for certain ? 
Mosca ( Volpone's Parasite). Are you? 
I do beseech you, sir, you will vouchsafe 








Except the rising sun do shine on me. 
Volt. It shall both shine and warm thee, Mosca. Jf. Sir, 
I am a man, that hath not done your love 


Your plate and moneys ; am your steward, sir, 
Husband your goods here. Volt, But am I sole heir? 
M. Without a partner, sir, confirm’d this morning ; 
The wax is warm yet, and the ink scarce dry 
Upon the parchment. Volt, Happy, happy, me! 
By what good chance, sweet Mosca? Af, Your desert, sir; 
I know no second cause.’ 
And he details the abundance of the wealth in which Voltore is about 
to swim, the gold which is to pour upon him, the opulence which is to 
flow in his house as a river: 
* When will you have your inventory brought, sir? 
Or see a copy of the will?’ 


would about 
him, this excellent opiate; he has had it prepared under his own eyes, 
he suggests it. His joy on finding Volpone more ill than himself is 
bitterly humorous: 
,- *C. How does your patron? . . . Mf. His mouth 
Is ever gaping, and his eyelids hang. : 
©. Good es : 
M. A freezing numbness stiffens all his joints, 
’ And makes the colour of his flesh like lead. 


* Volpone, i. 3. * Ibid. 





282 THE RENAISSANCE. _ [BooK IL. 


C. 'Tis good. ; 
4M. His pulse beats slow, and dull. C, Good symptoms still. 
M. And from his brain. C. I conceive you, good. 
M. Flows a cold sweat, with a continual rheum, 
Forth the resolved corners of his eyes. 
C. Is’t possible? Yet I am better, ha! 
How does he, with the swimming of his head ? 
M. O, sir, ’tis past the scotomy ; he now 
Hath lost his feeling, and hath left to snort: 
You hardly can perceive him, that he breathes. 
C. Excellent, excellent, sure I shall outlast him: 
This makes me young again, a score of years.’! 


If you would be his heir, says Mosca, the moment is favourable; but 
you must not let yourself be forestalled. Voltore has been here, and 
presented him with this piece of plate: 


£0. See, Mosca, look, 
Here, I have brought a bag of bright cecchines, ‘ 
Will quite weigh down his plate. . .. 

M. Now, would I counsel you, make home with speed, 
There, frame a will; whereto you shall inscribe 
My master your sole heir. . . . C. This plot 
Did I think on before... . 

M. And you so certain to survive him. C. IL, 

M. Being solustyaman. C. ’Tis true.’? 


And the old man hobbles away, not hearing the insults and ridicule 
thrown at him, he is so deaf. 

When he is gone the merchant Corvino arrives, bringing an orient 
pearl and a superb diamond : 


*Corvino. Am I his heir ? 

Mosca. Sir, I am sworn, I may not shew the will 
Till he be dead: but here has been Corbaccio, 
Here has been Voltore, here were others too, 
I cannot number ’em, they were so many, 
All gaping here for legacies ; but I, 
Taking the vantage of his naming you, 
Signior Corvino, Signior Corvino, took 
Paper, and pen, and ink, and there I ask’d him, 
‘Whom he would have his heir? Corvino. Who 
Should be executor? Corvino. And, 
To any question he was silent to, 
I still interpreted the nods, he made 
(Through weakness) for consent : and sent home th’ others, 
Nothing bequeath’d them, but to ery and curse. 

Cor. O my dear Mosca! ... Has he children? M. Bastards, 
Some dozen, or more, that he begot on beggars, 
Gypsies and Jews, and black-moors, when he was drunk. .. . 





2 Volpone, i. 4. 2 Ibid. 










Speak out: 
You may be louder yet... . 
Faith, I could stifle him rarely with « pillow, 
As well as any woman that should keep him. 
@. Do as you will, but I'll begone.“! 


Corvino presently departs; for the passions of the time have all the 
beauty of frankness. And Volpone, casting aside his sick man's garb, 
cries : 
* My divine Mosca! 
Thou hast to-day out-gone thyself. . . . Prepare 
Me musick, dances, banquets, all delights ; 
The Turk is not more sensual in his pleasures, 
Than will Volpone.’* 


On this invitation, Mosca draws a most voluptuous portrait of Corvino’s 


public square as in his house, Having once seen Celia, he resolves 
to obtain her at any price: 
* Mosca, take my keys, 


Gold, plate, and jewels, all’s at thy devotion ; 
Employ them how thou wilt ; nay, coin me too: 
So thou, in this, but crown my longings, Mosca.’* 
Mosca tells Corvino that some quack’s oil has cured his master, and 
that they are looking for a ‘young woman, lusty and full of juice,’ to 
complete the cure: 

* Ha’e you no kinswoman ? 


Godso, —Think, think, think, think, think, think, think, sir, 
One o” the doctors offer’d there his daughter. 


C. Howt M. Yes, signior Lupo, the physician. 
C. His daughter? Af. And a virgin, sir. . . . C. Wretch! 


(Heart) I will drag thee hence, home by the hair; 
Cry thee a strumpet through the streets ; rip up 
Thy mouth unto thine ears ; and slit thy nose ; 
Like a raw rotchet— Do not tempt me, come, . 
Yield, I am loth—(Death !) 1 will bay some slave 





1 Volpone, i. 5. * Ibid. * Ibid. ih. 4. * Ibid. ih. 6. 


aoe l. eee 
og. EP ~~ 


284 . THE RENAISSANCE. __ [BooK m2. 


Whom I will kill, and bind thee to him, alive ; 

And at my window hang you forth, devising ~ 

Some monstrous crime, which I, in capital letters, 

Will eat into thy flesh with aquafortis, 

And burning cor’sives, on this stubborn breast. 

Now, by the blood thou hast incens’d, I'll do ’t! 
Celia. Sir, what you please, you may, I am your martyr. 
Cor. Be not thus obstinate ; I ha’ not deserv’d it : 

Think who it is intreats you. Pr’ythee, sweet, 

(Good faith), thou shalt have jewels, gowns, attires, 

What thou wilt think, and ask. Do but go kiss him, 

Or touch him, but. For my sake. At my suit. 

This once No? not? I shall remember this. 

Will you disgrace me thus? Do you thirst my undoing? ’? 


Mosca turns, the moment before, to Volpone : 
‘Sir, 
Signior Corvino . . . hearing of the consultation had 
So lately, for your health, is come to offer, 
Or rather, sir, to prostitute.—C. Thanks, sweet Mosca, 
M. Freely, unask’d, or unintreated. C. Well. 
M. As the true fervent instance of his love, 
His own most fair and proper wife ; the beauty 
Only of price in Venice. C. ’Tis well urg’d.’? 

Where can we see such blows launched and driven hard, full in the 
face, by the violent hand of satire? Celia is alone with Volpone, who, 
throwing off his feigned sickness, comes upon her, ‘as fresh, as hot, as 
high, and in as jovial plight,’ as on the gala-days of the Republic, 
when he acted the part of the lovely Antinous. In his transport he 
sings a love song; his voluptuousness culminates in poetry ; for poetry 
was then in Italy the blossom of vice. He spreads before her pearls, 
diamonds, carbuncles. He is in raptures at the sight of the treasures, 
which he causes to roll and sparkle before her eyes: 


* Take these, 
And wear, and lose ’em: yet remains an earrin, 
To purchase them again, and this whole state. 
A gem but worth a private patrimony, 
Is nothing : we will eat such at a meal, 
The heads of parrots, tongues of nightingales, 
The brains of peacocks, and of estriches 
Shall be our food... . 

Conscience? ’Tis the beggar’s virtue. . » « 
Thy baths shall be the juice of July flowers, 
Spirit of roses, and of violets, 

The milk of unicorns, and panthers’ breath 








1 Volpone, iii. 7. We pray the reader to pardon us for Ben Jonson’s broadness, 
If I omit it, I cannot depict the sixteenth century. Grant the same indulgence 
to the historian as to the anatomist. 

2 Volpone, iii. 7. 





CHAP. IL) BEN JONSON. 285 
Gather’d in bags, and mixt with Cretan wines, 
Our drink shall be prepared gold and amber ; 
Which we will take, until my roof whirl round 
With the vertigo: and my dwarf shall dance, 
My eunuch sing, my fool make up the antick, 
Whilst we, in changed shapes, act Ovid's tales, 
Thou, like Europa now, and I like Jove, 
Then I like Mara, and thou like Erycine ; 
So, of the rest, till we have quite run through, 
And wearied all the fables of the gods." 
We recognise Venice in this splendour of debauchery—Venice, the 
throne of Aretinus, the country of Tintoret and Giorgione. Volpone 
seizes Celia: ‘Yield, or I'll force thee!’ But suddenly Bonario, dis- 
inherited son of Corbaccio, whom Mosca had concealed there with 
another design, enters violently, delivers her, wounds Mosca, and 
accuses Volpone before the tribunal, of imposture and rape. 
The three rascals who aim at being his heirs, work together to save 
Volpone. Corbaccio disavows his son, and accuses him of parricide. 
Corvino declares his wife an adulteress, the shameless mistress of 
Bonario. Never on the stage was seen such energy of lying, such 
open villany. The husband, who knows his wife to be innocent, is 
the most eager : 
* This woman (please your fatherhoods) is a whore, 

Of most hot exercise, more than a partrich, 

Upon record. 1s¢ Adv, No more. C. Neighs like a jennet. 

Notary. Preserve the honour of the court. €. I shall, 

And modesty of your most reverend ears. 

And yet I hope that I may say, these eyes 

Have seen her giew'’d unto that piece of cedar, 

That fine well-timber’d gallant ; and that here 

The letters may be read, thorow the horn, 
That make the story perfect. . . . 

3d Adv. His grief hath made him frantic, (Celia swoons.) 

OC. Kare! Prettily feign’d! again !'* 
They have Volpone brought in, like a dying man; manufacture false 
‘ testimony,’ to which Voltore gives weight with his advocate's tongue, 
with words worth a sequin apiece. They put Celia and Bonario into 
prison, and Volpone is saved. This public imposture is for him only 
another comedy, a pleasant pastime, and a masterpiece, 

* Mosea. To gull the court. Volpone. And quite divert the torrent 
Upon the innocent... . 


M. You are not taken with it enough, methinks. 
¥. O, more than if I had enjoy’d the wench t"* 


To conclude, he writes a will in Mosca’s favour, has his death reported, 
hides behind « curtain, and enjoys the looks of the would-be heirs. 


* Volpone, iii. 7. * Ibid. iv. 5, ® Ibid. vy. 2. 














286 THE RENAISSANCE. [BooK IL. 
They had just saved him, which makes the fun all the better; the 
wickedness will be all the greater and more exquisite. ‘Torture ’em 
rarely,’ Volpone says to Mosca. The latter spreads the will on the 
table, and reads the inventory aloud, ‘Turkey carpets nine. Two 
cabinets, one of ebony, the other, mother-of-pearl. A perfum’d box, 
made of an onyx.’ The heirs are stupefied with disappointment, and 
Mosca drives them off with insults, He says to Corvino: 


‘Why would you stay here? with what thought, what promise ? 
Hear you? do you not know, I know you an ass ? 

And that you would most fain have been a wittol, 

If fortune would have let you? That you are 

A declar’d cuckold, on good terms? This pearl, 

You'll say, was yours? Right: this diamond? 

T'll not deny’t, but thank you. Much here else ? 

It may be so. Why, think that these good works 

May help to hide your bad... . 

Corv. I am cozen’d, cheated, by a parasite slave ; 

Harlot, th’ hast gull’d me. M. Yes, sir. Stop your mouth, 
Or I shall draw the only tooth is left. 

Are not you he, that filthy covetous wretch, 

With the three legs, that here, in hope of prey, 

Have any time this three years snufft about, 

With your most grov’ling nose, and would have hir’d 

Me to the pois’ning of my patron, sir? 

Are not you he that have to-day in court 

Profess’d the disinheriting of your son ? 

Perjur'd yourself? Go home, and die, and stink.’! 


Volpone goes out disguised, comes to each of them in turn, and suc- 
ceeds in wringing hietl ivarts But Mosca, who has the will, acts with 
a high hand, and demands of Volpone half his fortune. The dispute 
between the two rascals discovers their impostures, and the master, 
the servant, with the three would-be heirs, are sent to the galleys, to 
prison, to the pillory—as Corvino says, to 

‘ Have mine eyes beat out with stinking fish, 

Bruis’d fruit, and rotten eggs.—’Tis well. I’m glad, 

I shall not see my shame yet.’? 


No more vengeful comedy has been written, none more persistently 
athirst to make vice suffer, to unmask, triumph over, and punish it. 
Where can be the gaiety of such a theatre? In caricature and 
farce. There is a rude gaiety, a sort of physical, external laughter 
which suits this combative, drinking, blustering mood. It is thus 
that this mood relaxes from a war-waging and murderous satire; the 
pastime is appropriate to the manners of the time, excellent to attract 
men who look upon hanging as a good joke, and laugh to see the 
Puritans’ ears cut. Put yourself for an instant in their place, and you 





2 Volpone, v. 3, 2 bid. v. 12. 






















— OHAP. IL] | BEN JONSON. 287 


will think like them, that Zhe Silent Woman is a masterpiece. Morose 
is an old monomaniac, who has a horror of noise, but loves to speak. 
He inhabits a street so narrow that a carriage cannot enter it. He 
drives off with his stick the bear-leaders and sword-players, who venture 
to pass under his windows. He has sent away his servant whose shoes 
creaked ; and Mute, the new one, wears slippers ‘ soal’d with wool,’ and 
only speaks in a whisper through a tube. Morose ends by forbidding 
the whisper, and making him reply by signs. For the rest, he is rich, 
he is an uncle, and ill-treats his nephew Sir Dauphine Eugenie, a man 
of wit, with a lack of money. You see beforehand all the tortures 
which poor Morose is to suffer. Sir Dauphine finds him a supposed 
silent woman, the beautiful Epicene. Morose, enchanted by her brief 
replies and her voice which he can hardly hear, marries her, to play 
his nephew a trick. It is his nephew who has played him a trick. As 
soon as she is married, Epiceene speaks, scolds, argues as loud and as 
long as a dozen women : 


* Why, did you think you had married a statue? or a motion only? one of the 
French puppets, with the eyes turn’d with a wire? or some innocent out of the 
hospital, that would stand with her hands thus, and a playse mouth, and look upon 
yout’? 

She orders the valets to speak louder; she opens the doors wide to 
her friends. They arrive in troops, offering their noisy congratulations 
to Morose. Five or six women’s tongues overwhelm him all at once 
with compliments, questions, advice, remonstrances. A friend of Sir 
Dauphine comes with a band of music, who play all together, suddenly, 
with their whole force. ‘O, a plot, a plot, a plot, a plot, upon me! 
This day I shall be their anvil to work on, they will grate me asunder. 
"Tis worse than the noise of a saw.’* A procession of servants is seen 
coming, with dishes in their hands; it is the bustle of the tavern which 
Sir Dauphine is bringing to his uncle. The guests clash the glasses, cry 
out, drink healths; they have with them a drum and trumpets which 
make great noise. Morose flees to the top of the house, puts ‘a whole 
nest of night-caps’ on his head, and stuffs up his ears. Captain Otter 
cries, ‘Sound, Tritons o’ the Thames! Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero,’ 
* Villains, murderers, sons of the earth and traitors,’ cries Morose from 
above, ‘ what do you there?’ The racket increases. Then the captain, 
somewhat ‘jovial,’ maligns his wife, who falls upon him and gives him 
a good beating. Blows, cries, music, laughter, resound like thunder. 
It is the poetry of uproar. Here is a subject to shake rude nerves, 
and raise with inextinguishable laughter the mighty chests of the com- 
panions of Drake and Essex. ‘ Rogues, hell-hounds, Stentors! . . . They 
have rent my roof, walls, and all my windows asunder, with their brazen 
throats!’ Morose casts himself on the people with his long sword, 
breaks the instruments, chases the musicians, disperses the guests amidst 


1 Epiccne, iii. 4, * Ibid. iii, 7, 





288 THE RENAISSANCE. [Box I 


an inexpressible uproar, gnashing his teeth, looking dreadfully. After- 
wards they pronounce him mad, and discuss his madness before him." 
‘The disease in Greek is called waviu, in Latin insania, furor, vel ecstasis 
melancholica, that is, egressio, when a man ex melancholico evadit fanaticus. 
.- - But he may be but phreneticus yet, mistress; and phrenetis is only 
delirium, or so.’ They talk of the books which he must read aloud to 
cure him. They add, by way of consolation, that his wife talks in her 
sleep, ‘and snores like a porcpisce.’ ‘O, redeem me, fate; redeem me, 
fate!’ cries the poor man.? ‘For how many causes may a man be 
divore’d, nephew?’ Sir Dauphine chooses two knaves, and disguises 
them, one as a priest, the other as a lawyer, who launch at his head 
Latin terms of civil and canon law, explain to Morose the twelve cases 
of nullity, jingle in his ears one after another the most barbarous 
words in their obscure vocabulary, wrangle, and make between them as 
much noise as a couple of bells in a bell-tower. On their advice he 
declares himself impotent. The wedding-guests propose to toss him in 
a blanket; others demand an immediate inquisition. Fall after fall, 
shame after shame; nothing serves him; his wife declares that she 
consents to ‘take him with all his faults.’ The lawyer proposes another 
legal method; Morose shall obtain a divorce by proving that his wife 
is faithless. Two boasting knights, who are present, declare that they 
have been her lovers. Morose, in raptures, casts himself at their knees, 
and embraces them. Epicceene weeps, and Morose seems to be delivered. 
Suddenly the lawyer decides that the plan is of no avail, the infidelity 
having been committed before the marriage. ‘OQ, this is worst of all 
worst worsts that hell could have devis’d! marry a whore! and so 
much noise!’ There is Morose then, declared impotent and a deceived 
husband, at his own request, in the eyes of the world, and moreover, 
married for ever. Sir Dauphine comes in like a clever rascal, and as a 
succouring deity. ‘Allow me but five hundred during life, uncle,’ and 


I free you. Morose signs the deed of gift with alacrity; and his — 


nephew shows him that Epiceene is a boy in disguise.* Add to this 
enchanting farce the funny parts of the two accomplished and gallant 
knights, who, after having boasted of their bravery, receive gratefully, 
and before the ladies, flips and kicks. Never was coarse physical 
laughter more adroitly produced. In this broad coarse gaiety, this 
excess of noisy transport, you recognise the stout roysterer, the stalwart 
drinker who swallowed down torrents of Canary, and made the glass 
windows of the Mermaid shake with his bursts of humour. 


¥; 


Jonson did not go beyond this; he was not a philosopher like Moliére, 
able to grasp and dramatise the crises of human life, education, marriage, 





' See M. de Pourceaugnac in Molitre, 
2 Epiceene, iv. 4. 3 Ibid. v. 5. 
* Polichinelle in Le Malade imaginaire ; Géronte in Les Fourberies de Scapin. 


Try 





. 


CHAP. ITI] BEN JONSON. 289 


sickness, the chief characters of his country and century, the courtier, 
the tradesman, the hypocrite, the man of the world.’ He remained on 
a lower level, in the comedy of plot,* the painting of the grotesque,’ the 
representation of too transient subjects of ridicule,‘ too general vices.® 
If at times, as in the Alchemist, he has succeeded by the perfection of 
plot and the vigour of satire, he has miscarried more frequently by the 
ponderousness of his work and the lack of comic lightness. The critic 
in him mars the artist; his literary calculations strip him of sponta- 
neous invention ; he is too much of a writer and moralist, not enough of 
a mimic and an actor. But he is loftier from another side, for he is a 
poet; almost all writers, prose-authors, preachers even, were so at the 
time we speak of. Fancy abounded, as well as the perception of colours 
and forms, the need and wont of enjoying through the imagination and 
the eyes. Many of Jonson’s pieces, the Staple of News, Cynthia's 
Revels, are fanciful and allegorical comedies, like those of Aristophanes. 
He there dallies with the real, and beyond the real, with characters who 
are but theatrical masks, abstractions personified, buffooneries, decora- 
tions, dances, music, pretty laughing whims of a picturesque and senti- 
mental | imagination. Thus, in Cynthia's Revels, three children come on 
possession of the cloke’ of black velvet, which an actor 
sates wore when he spoke the prologue. They draw lots for it; one 
’ of the losers, in revenge, tells the audience beforehand the incidents 
of the piece. The others interrupt him at every sentence, put their 
hands on his mouth, and taking the cloak one after the other, begin 
the criticism of the spectators and authors. This child’s play, these 
gestures and voices, this little amusing dispute, divert the public from 
their serious thoughts, and prepare them for the oddities which they 
are to look upon. 
We are in Greece, in the valley of Gargaphie, where Diana® has 
proclaimed ‘a solemn revels.’ Mercury and Cupid have come down, 
and begin by quarrelling; the latter says: 


* My light feather-heel’d couz, what are you? any more than my uncle Jove's 
pandar? a lacquey that runs on errands for him, and can whisper a light message 
to a loose wench with some round volubility? . . . One that sweeps the gods’ 
drinking-room every morning, and sets the cushions in order again, which they 
threw one at another's head over night’? 


These are the gods of good humour. Echo, awoke by Mercury, 
weeps for the beauteous boy Narcissus: 





1 L’Ecole des Femmes, Tartuffe, Le Misanthrope, Le Bourgeois-gentilhomme, 
Le Malade imaginaire, Georges Dandin. 
* In the style of the Fourberies de Scapin. 
* In the style of the Facheuz. * In the style of the Précieuses. 
5 Jn the style of the plays of Destouches. 
® By Diana, Queen Elizabeth is meant. 1 Oynthia’s Revels, i. 1. 
z 


290 THE RENAISSANCE. | [BooK 1. 


* That trophy of self-love, and spoil of nature, 
Who (now transformed into this drooping flower) 
Hangs the repentant head, back from the stream. . . . 
Witness thy youth's dear sweets, here spent untasted, 
Like a fair taper, with his own flame wasted! .. . 
And with thy water let this curse remain, 
(As an inseparate plague, ) that who but tastes 
A drop thereof, may, with the instant touch, 
Grow dotingly enamour’d on themselves.’ 


The courtiers and ladies drink thereof, and behold, a sort of review of 
the follies of the time, arranged, as in Aristophanes, in an improbable 
farce, a brilliant show. A silly spendthrift, Asotus, wishes to become 
a man of the court, and of fashionable manners; he takes for his 
master Amorphus, a learned traveller, expert in gallantry, who, to 
believe himself, is 

* An essence so sublimated ard refined by travel... able. . . tospeak the mere 
extraction of language; one that... was your first that ever enrich’d his country 
with the true laws of the duello ; whose optiques have drunk the spirit of beauty, in 
some eight-score and eighteen princes’ courts, where I have resided, and been there 
fortunate in the amours of three hundred forty and five ladies (all nobly if not 
princely descended) . . . in all so happy, as even admiration herself doth seem 
to fasten her kisses upon me.’? 


Asotus learns at this good school the language of the court, fortifies 
himself like other people with quibbles, learned oaths, and metaphors ; 
he fires off in succession supersubtle tirades, and duly imitates the 
grimaces and tortuous style of his masters. Then, when he has drunk 
the water of the fountain, becoming suddenly pert and rash, he pro- 
poses to all comers a tournament of ‘court compliment,’ This odd 
tournament is held before the ladies; it comprises four jousts, and at 
each the trumpets sound. The combatants perform in succession ‘ the 
bare accost; the better regard; the solemn address; and the perfect. 
close.* In this grave buffoonery the courtiers are beaten. The severe 
Crites, the moralist of the play, copies their language, and pierces them 
with their own weapons. Already, with grand declamation, he had 
rebuked them thus: 

*-O vanity, 
How are thy painted beauties doated on, 
By light, and empty ideots! how pursu’d 
With open and extended appetite! 
How they do sweat, and run themselves from breath, 
Rais’d on their toes, to catch thy airy forms, 
Still turning giddy, till they reel like drunkards, 
That buy the merry madness of one hour, 
With the long irksomeness of following time!’ * 


To complete the overthrow of the vices, appear two symbolical masques, 





1 Oynthia’s Revels, i. 2. ® Ibid. i. 3. 5 Ibid, iv. 5. * Ibid. i. 5. 


~ 






























omar. mr] BEN JONSON. 291 


representing the contrary virtues. They pass gravely before the spec- 
tators, in splendid array, and the noble verses exchanged by the 
goddess and her companions raise the mind to the lofty regions of 
serene morality, whither the poet desires to carry us: 
* Queen, and huntress, chaste and fair, 

Now the sun is laid to sleep, 

Seated in thy silver chair, 

State in wonted manner keep. ... 

Lay thy bow of pear! apart, 

And thy crystal shining quiver ; 

Give unto the flying hart 

Space to breathe, how short soever.’ * 


In the end, bidding the dancers to unmask, Cynthia shows that the vices 
have disguised themselves as virtues. She condemns them to make fit 
reparation, and to bathe themselves in Helicon. Two by two they go 
off singing a palinode, whilst the chorus sings the supplication ‘ Good 
Mercury defend us.’* Isit an opera or a comedy? It is a lyrical comedy; 
and if we do not discover in it the airy lightness of Aristophanes, at 
least we encounter, as in the Birds and the Frogs, the contrasts and 
medleys of poetic invention, which, through caricature and ode, the 
real and the impossible, the present and the past, comprehending the 
four quarters of the globe, simultaneously unites all kinds of incom- 
patibilities, and culls all flowers. 
_ Jonson went further than this, and entered the domain of pure 
poetry. He wrote delicate, voluptuous, charming love poems, worthy 
of the ancient idyllic muse.* Above all, he was the great, the inex- 
haustible inventor of Masques, a kind of masquerades, ballets, poetic 
dances, in which all the magnificence and the imagination of the English 
Renaissance is displayed. The Greek gods, and all the ancient Olympus, 
the mythic personages whom the artists of the time delineate in their 
pictures; the antique heroes of popular legends ; all worlds, the actual, 
the abstract, the divine, the human, the ancient, the modern, are 
searched by his hands, brought on the stage to furnish costumes, har- 
monious groups, emblems, songs, whatever can excite, intoxicate the 
artistic sense. The élite, moreover, of the kingdom is there on the 
stage. They are not buffoons figuring in borrowed clothes, clumsily 
worn, for which they are still in debt to the tailor; they are ladies of 
_ the court, great lords, the queen; in all the splendour of their rank 
and pride, with real diamonds, bent on displaying their riches, so that 
the whole splendour of the national life is concentrated in the opera 
which they enact, like jewels in a casket. What array! what profusion 
of splendours! what medley of strange characters, gipsies, witches, 
gods, heroes, pontiffs, gnomes, fantastic beings! How many meta- 


! Cynthia's Revels, v. 6. ® Ibid. v., last scene. 
% Celebration of Charis— Miscellaneous Poems. 





292 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK Il. 


morphoses, jousts, dances, marriage songs! What variety of scenery, 
architecture, floating isles, triumphal arches, symbolic spheres! Gold 
glitters ; jewels flash; purple absorbs the lustre-lights in its costly folds; 
streams of brightness play upon the silken pleats; diamonds twisted, 
darting flame, clasp the bare bosoms of women; necklets of pearl float, 
loop after loop, down the silver-sown brocaded dresses ; gold embroidery, 
weaving whimsical arabesques, depicts upon their dresses flowers, fruits, 
and figures, setting picture within picture. The steps of the throne 
bear groups of Cupids, each with a torch in his hand.’ On either side 
the fountains cast up plumes of pearls; the musicians, in purple and 
scarlet, laurel-crowned, make harmony in the bowers. The trains of 
masques cross, commingling their groups; ‘the one half in orange- 
tawny and silver, the other in sea-green and silver. The bodies and 
short skirts (were of) white and gold to both.’ 

Such pageants Jonson wrote year after year, almost to the end of his 
life, true eye-feasts, like a procession of Titian. Even when he grew 
to be old, his imagination, like that of Titian, remained abundant and 
fresh. Though forsaken, gasping on his bed, feeling the approach of 
death, in his supreme bitterness he did not lose his tone, but wrote The 
Sad Shepherd, the most graceful and pastoral of his pieces. Consider 
that this beautiful dream was dreamed in a sick-chamber, to an accom- 
paniment of bottles, physic, doctors, with a nurse at his side, amidst 
the anxieties of poverty and the choking-fits of a dropsy! He is 
transported to a green forest, in the days of Robin Hood, amidst jovial 
chace and the great barking greyhounds. There are the malicious 
fairies, the Oberon and Titania, who lead men aflounder in misfortune. 
There are open-souled lovers, the Daphne and Chloe, tasting with awe © 
the painful sweetness of the first kiss. There lived Earine, whom the 
stream has ‘suck’d in,’ whom her lover, in his madness, will not cease 
to lament: 

‘ Earine, 

Who had her very being, and her name 
With the first knots or buddings ot the spring, 
Born with the primrose or the violet, 
Or earliest roses blown: when Cupid smil’d, 
And Venus led the graces out to dance, © 
And all the flowers and sweets in nature’s lap 
Leap’d out, and made their solemn conjuration 
To last but while she liv’d.’.. . * 

* But she, as chaste as was her name, Earine, 
Dy’d undeflower’d : and now her sweet soul hovers 
Here in the air above us.’* 








/ Above the poor old paralytic artist, poetry still hovers like a haze of 
light. Yes, he had cumbered himself with science, clogged himself with 





1 Masque of Beauty. * The Sad Shepherd, i. 5. % Ibid. iii, 2. 








CHAP, II] BEN JONSON. 293 


theories, constituted himself theatrical critic and social censor, filled his 
soul with unrelenting indignation, fostered a combative and morose dis- 
position; but heaven's dreams never deserted him. He is the brother 


of Shakspeare. 4 
VI. 


So now at last we are in the presence of one, whom we perceived 
before us through all the vistas of the Renaissance, like some vast oak 
to which all the forest ways converge, I will treat of Shakspeare by 
himself. In order to take him in completely, we must have a wide and 
open space. And yet how shall we comprehend him? how lay bare 
his inner constitution ? Lofty words, eulogies, all is vain by his side ; 
he needs no praise, but comprehension merely; and he can only be 
comprehended by the aid of science. As the complicated revolutions 
of the heavenly bodies become intelligible only by use of a superior 
calculus, as the delicate transformations of vegetation and life need for 
their comprehension the intervention of the most difficult chemical 
processes, so the great works of art can be interpreted only by the 
most advanced psychological systems; and we need the loftiest of all 
these to attain to Shakspeare’s level—to the level of his age and his 
work, of his genius and of his art. 

After all practical experience and accumulated observations of the 
soul, we find as the result that wisdom and knowledge are in man only 
effects and fortuities. Man has no permanent and distinct force to 
secure truth to his intelligence, and common sense to his conduct. On 
the contrary, he is naturally unreasonable and deceived. The parts of his 
inner mechanism are like the wheels of clockwork, which of themselves 
go blindly, carried away by impulse and weight, and which yet some- 
times, by virtue of a certain unison, end by indicating the hour. This 
final intelligent motion is not natural, but fortuitous; not spontaneous, 
but forced; not inherent, but acquired. The clock did not always go 
regularly ; it had to be regulated little by little, with much difficulty. 
Its regularity is not ensured; it may go wrong in an instant. Its regu- 
larity is not complete; it only approximately marks the time. The 
mechanical force of each piece is always present, ready to drag all the 
rest from their proper action, and to disarrange the whole agreement. 
So ideas, once in the mind, pull each blindly and separately, and their 
imperfect agreement threatens confusion every moment. Strictly 
_ speaking, man is idiotic, as the body is sick, by mature; reason and 
health come to us as a momentary success, a lucky accident.’ If we 
forget this, it is because we are now regulated, dulled, deadened, and 
because our internal motion has become gradually, by friction and 





2 This idea may be expanded psychologically: external perception, memory, 
are real hallucinations, etc. This is the analytical aspect ; under another aspect 
reason and health are the natural goals. 


294 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 11. 


tension, half harmonised with the motion of external things. But this 
is only a semblance; and the dangerous primitive forces remain untamed 
and independent under the order, which seems to restrain them. Leta 
great danger arise, a revolution break out, they will make an eruption 
and an explosion, almost as terribly as in the earlier times. For an 
idea is not a mere inner mark, employed to designate one aspect of 
things, inert, always ready to fall into order with other similar ones, so 
as to make an exact whole. However it may be reduced and disci- 
plined, it still retains a visible tinge which shows its likeness to an 
hallucination; a degree of individual persistence which shows its like- 
ness to a monomania; a network of particular affinities which shows its 
likeness to the ravings of delirium. Being such, it is beyond question 
the rudiment of a nightmare, a habit, an absurdity. Let it become 
once developed in its entirety, as its tendency leads it,’ and you will 
find that it is essentially an active and complete image, a vision drawing 
along with it a train of dreams and sensations, which increases of itself, 
suddenly, by a sort of manifold and absorbing growth, and which ends 
by possessing, shaking, exhausting the whole man. After this, another, 
perhaps entirely opposite, and so on successively: there is nothing else 
in man, no free and distinct power; he is in himself but the process of 
these headlong impulses and swarming imaginations: civilisation has 
mutilated, attenuated, but not destroyed them; fits, shocks, transports, 
sometimes at long intervals a sort of transient partial equilibrium: this 
is his real life, the life of a lunatic, who now and then simulates reason, 
but who is in reality ‘such stuff as dreams are made on ;’* and this is 
man, as Shakspeare has conceived him. No writer, not even Moliére, 
has penetrated so far beneath the semblance of common sense and logic 
in which the human machine is enclosed, in order to crush the brute 
powers which constitute its substance and its mainspring. 

How did Shakspeare succeed? and by what extraordinary instinct 
did he divine the remote conclusions, the deepest insights of physiology 
and psychology? He had a complete imagination; his whole genius is 
in that single word. A small word, which seems commonplace and 
hollow. Let us examine it closer, to understand what it contains. 
When we think a thing, we, ordinary men, we only think a part of it; 
we see one side, some isolated mark, sometimes two or three marks 
together ; for what is beyond, our sight fails us; the infinite network 
of its infinitely-complicated and multiplied properties escapes us; we — 
feel vaguely that there is something beyond our shallow ken, and this 
vague suspicion is the only part of our idea which at all reveals to 
us the great beyond. We are like tyro-naturalists, quiet people of 
limited understanding, who, wishing to represent an animal, recall its 
name and ticket, with some indistinct image of its hide and figure; but 





* See Spinoza and D. Stewart: Conception in its natural state is belief, 
2 Tempest, iv. 1. 





CHAP. It] _ BEN JONSON. 295 


their mind rests there. If it so happens that they wish to complete 
their knowledge, they lead their memory, by regular classifications, 
over the principal characters of the beast, and slowly, discursively, 
gradually, bring at last the bare anatomy before their eyes. To this 
their idea is reduced, even when perfected ; to this also most frequently 
is our conception reduced, even when elaborated. What a distance 
there is between this conception and the object, how imperfectly and 
meanly the one represents the other, to what extent this mutilates that; 
how the consecutive idea, disjointed in little, regularly arranged and 
inert fragments, represents but slightly the complete, organised, living 
thing, ever in action, and ever transformed, words cannot explain. 
Picture to yourself, instead of this poor dry idea, propped up by a 
miserable mechanical linkwork of thought, the complete idea, that is, 
an inner representation, so abundant and full, that it exhausts all the 
properties and relations of the object, all its inward and outward 
aspects ; that it exhausts them instantaneously; that it conceives of the 
animal all at once, its colour, the play of the light upon its skin, its 
form, the quivering of its outstretched limbs, the flash of its eyes, and 
at the same time its passion of the moment, its excitement, its dash ; 
and beyond this its instincts, their composition, their causes, their 
history ; so that the hundred thousand characteristics which make up 
its condition and its nature find their analogues in the imagination 
which concentrates and reflects them: there you have the artist's con- 
ception, the poet’s—Shakspeare’s; so superior to that of the logician, 
of the mere savant or man of the world, the only one capable of pene- 
trating to the basis of things, of extricating the inner from beneath the 
outer man, of feeling through sympathy, and imitating without effort, 
the disorderly roundabout of human imaginations and impressions, of 
reproducing life with its infinite fluctuations, its apparent contradictions, 
its concealed logic; in short, to create as nature creates. This is what 
is done by the other artists of this age; they have the same kind of 
mind, and the same idea of life: you will find in Shakspeare only the 
same faculties, with a still stronger impulse ; the same idea, with a still 
more prominent relief. 


296 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


CHAPTER IV. 


Shakspeare. 


I. Life and character of Shakspeare—Family—Youth—Marriage—He becomes 
an actor—Adonis—Sonnets—Loves— Humour — Conversation — Melan- 
choly—The constitution of the productive and sympathetic character— 
Prudence—Fortune—Retirement. 

II. Style—Images—Excesses—Incongruities—Copiousness—Difference between 
the creative and analytic conception. 

III. Manners—Familiar intercourse—Violent bearing—Harsh language—Con- 
versation and action—Agreement of manners and style. 

IV. The dramatis persone—aAll of the same family—Brutes and idiots—Caliban, 
Ajax, Cloten, Polonius, the Nurse—How the mechanical imagination can 
precede or survive reason. 

VY. Men of wit—Difference between the wit of reasoners and of artists—Mer- 
cutio, Beatrice, Rosalind, Benedict, the clowns—Falstaff. 

VI. Women—Desdemona, Virginia, Juliet, Miranda, Imogen, Cordelia, Ophelia, 
Volumnia—How Shakspeare represents love—Why he bases virtue on 
instinct or passion. 

VII. Villains—Iago, Richard 111.—How excessive lusts and the lack of conscience 
are the natural province of the impassioned imagination. 

VIII. Principal characters—Excess and disease of the imagination—Lear, Othello, 
Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Macbeth, Hamlet—Comparison of Shakspeare’s 
psychology with that of the French tragic authors. 

IX. Fancy—Agreement of imagination with observation in Shakspeare—In- 
teresting nature of sentimental and romantic comedy—As you Like it— 
Idea of existence—Midsummer Night's Dream—Idea of love—Harmony 
of all parts of the work—Harmony between the artist and his work. 


| AM about to describe an extraordinary species of mind, perplex- 

ing to all the French modes of analysis and reasoning, all-power- 
ful, excessive, equally master of the sublime and the base; the most 
creative that ever engaged in the exact copy of the details of actual 
existence, in the dazzling caprice of fancy, in the profound complica- 
tions of superhuman passions; a nature poetical, immoral, inspired, 
superior to reason by the sudden revelations of his seer’s-madness; so 
extreme in joy and pain, so abrupt of gait, so stormy and impetuous 
in his transports, that this great age alone could have cradled such a 
child. 


ae, eS eee 





———  — —— 








omar, 1v,J SHAKSPEARE. 297 


I. 


Of Shakspeare all came from within—I mean from his soul and his 
genius; external circumstances contributed but slightly to his develop- 
ment,’ He was intimately bound up with his age; that is, he knew 
by experience the manners of country, court, and town ; he had visited 
' the heights, depths, the middle regions of the condition of mankind; 
nothing more. For the rest his life was commonplace; the irregu- 
larities, troubles, passions, successes through which he passed, were, on 
the whole, such as we meet with everywhere else.’ \/ His father, a glover 
and wool stapler, in very easy circumstances, having married a sort of 
country heiress, had become high-bailiff and chief alderman in his little 
town; but when Shakspeare reached the age of fourteen he was on 
_ the verge of ruin, mortgaging his wife’s property, obliged to resign his 
municipal offices, and to remove his son from school to assist him in his 
business. The young fellow applied himself to it as well as he could, 
not without some scrapes and escapades: if we are to believe tradition, 
he was one of the thirsty souls of the place, with a mind to support the 
reputation of his little town in its drinking powers, Once, they say, 
having been beaten at Bideford in one of these ale-bouts, he returned 
staggering from the fight, or rather could not return, and passed the 
night with his comrades under an apple-tree by the roadside. Without 
doubt he had already begun to write verses, to rove about like a genuine ~ 
poet, taking part in the noisy rustic feasts, the gay pastoral plays, the 
rich and bold outbreak of pagan and poetical life, as it was then to be 
found in an English village. At all events, he was not a pattern of 
propriety, and his passions were as precocious as they were reckless. 
While not yet nineteen years old, he married the daughter of a sub- 
stantial yeoman, about eight years older than himself—and not too soon, 
_ as she was about to become a mother.* Other of his outbreaks were 
no more fortunate. It seems that he was fond of poaching, after the 
_ manner of the time, being ‘ much given to all unluckinesse in stealing 
__ venison and rabbits,’ says the Rev. Richard Davies ;* ‘ particularly from 
Sir Lucy, who had him oft whipt and sometimes imprisoned, and 
at last made him fly the country; . . . but his reveng was so great, that 
he is his Justice Clodpate.’ Moreover, about this time Shakspeare’s 
father was in prison, his affairs were desperate, and he himself had 
three children, following one close upon the other; he must live, and 
life was hardly possible for him in his native town. He went to 





































1 Halliwell’s Life of Shakspeare. 

* Born 1564, died 1616. He adapted plays as early as 1591. The first play 
entirely from his pen appeared in 1593.—Payne CoLirer. 

4 * Mr. Halliwell and other commentators try to prove that at this time the pre- 

liminary trothplight was regarded as the real marriage ; that this trothplight had 

_ taken place, and that there was therefore no irregularity in Shakspeare’s conduct. 

* Halliwell, 123. 


298 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 1. 


London, and took to the stage: took the lowest parts, was a ‘ servant’ 
in the theatre, that is, an apprentice, or perhaps a supernumerary. 
They even said that he had begun still lower, and that to earn his 
bread he had held gentlemen’s horses at the door of the theatre.1 At 
all events he tasted misery, and felt, not in imagination but in fact, the 
sharp thorn of care, humiliation, disgust, forced labour, public discredit, 
the power of the people. He was a comedian, one of ‘ His Majesty's 
poor players,’*—a sad trade, degraded in all ages by the contrasts and 
the falsehoods inseparable from it; still more degraded then by the 
brutalities of the crowd, who not seldom would stone the actors, and 
by the severities of the magistrates, who would sometimes condemn 
them to lose their ears. He felt it, and spoke of it with bitterness: 
* Alas, ‘tis true I have gone here and there 
And made myself a motley to the view, 
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear.’* 
And again: 
‘When in disgrace with fortune * and men’s eyes, 
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, 
And look upon myself and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed. . . . 
With what I most enjoy contented least ; 
Yet in those thoughts myself almost despising.’® 
We shall find further on the traces of this long-enduring disgust, in 
his melancholy characters, as where he says : 
‘For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, 
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, 
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, 
The insolence of office and the spurns 
That patient merit of the unworthy takes, 
When he himself might his quietus make 
With a bare bodkin ?’6 


But the worst of this degraded position is, that it eats into the soul. 
In the company of buffoons we become buffoons: it is vain to wish to 
keep clean, if you live in a dirty place; it cannot be. No matter if a 
man braces himself; necessity drives and soils him. The machinery of 
the decorations, the tawdriness and medley of the costumes, the smell of 





1 All these anecdotes are traditions, and consequently more or less doubtful ; 
but the other facts are authentic. 

* Terms of an extant document. He is named along with Burbadge and Greene. 

* Sonnet 110. 

* See Sonnets 91 and 111; also Hamlet, iii. 2. Many of Hamlet’s words would 
come better from the mouth of an actor than a prince. See also the 66th Sonnet, 
‘Tired with all these.’ 

5 Sonnet 29. 6 Hamlet, iii. 1. 





faa 








omar. 1V.] SHAKSPEARE, 299 


the tallow and the candles, in contrast with the parade of refinement and 
loftiness, all the cheats and sordidness of the representation, the bitter 
alternative of hissing or applause, the keeping of the highest and lowest 
company, the habit of sporting with human passions, easily unhinge 
the soul, drive it down the slope of excess, tempt it to loose manners, 
green-room adventures, the loves of strolling actresses. Shakspeare 
escaped them no more than Moliére, and grieved for it, like Moliére: 
*O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide, 


The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds, 
That did not better for my life provide 


Than public means which public manners breeds."! 
They used to relate in London, how his comrade Burbadge, who 
played Richard m., having a rendezvous with the wife of a citizen, 
Shakspeare went before, was well received, and was pleasantly occupied 
when Burbadge arrived, to whom he sent the message, that William 
the Conqueror came before Richard m.* You may take this as an 
example of the tricks and somewhat coarse intrigues which are planned, 
and follow in quick succession, on this stage. Outside the theatre he 
lived with fashionable young nobles, Pembroke, Montgomery, South- 
ampton,’ and others, whose hot and licentious youth fed his imagi- 
nation and senses by the example of Italian pleasures and elegances. 
Add to this the rapture and transport of poetical nature, and this afflux, 
this boiling over of all the powers and desires which takes place in 
brains of this kind, when the world for the first time opens before them, 
and you will understand the Venus and Adonis, ‘ the first heir of his 
invention.’ In fact, it is a first cry, a cry in which the whole man is 
displayed. Never was seen a heart so quivering to the touch of beauty, 
of beauty of every kind, so ravished with the freshness and splendour 
of things, so eager and so excited in adoration and enjoyment, so vio- 
lently and entirely carried to the very limit of voluptuousness. His 
Venus is unique; no painting of Titian’s has a more brilliant and de- 
licious colouring ;* no strumpet-goddess of Tintoret or Giorgione is more 
soft and beautiful : 
‘ With blindfold fury she begins to forage, 

Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth boil. . . . 

And glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth ; 

Her lips are conquerors, his lips obey, 

Paying what ransom the insulter willeth ; 

Whose vulture thought doth pitch the price so high, 

That she will draw his lips’ rich treasure dry.’ ® 





1 Sonnet 111. 

? Anecdote written in 1602 on the authority of Tooley the actor. 

3 The Earl of Southampton was nineteen years old when Shakspeare dedicated 
his Adonis to him. 

* See Titian’s picture, Loves of the Gods, at Blenheim. 

5 Venus and Adonis, v. 548-553. 


i 


300 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


*Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast, 
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone, 
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste, 
Till either gorge be stuff'd or prey be gone ; 
Even so she kiss’d his brow, his cheek, his chin, 
And where she ends she doth anew begin.’ ! 
All is taken by storm, the senses first, the eyes dazzled by carnal 
beauty, but the heart also from whence the poetry overflows; the 
fulness of youth inundates even inanimate things; the landscape looks 
charming amidst the rays of the rising sun, the air, saturated with 
brightness, makes a gala-day : 
‘Lo, here the gentle lark, weary of rest, 
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high, 
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breas 
The sun ariseth in his majesty ; 
Who doth the world so gloriously behold 
That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish’d gold.’? 


An admirable debauch of imagination and rapture, yet disquieting ; for 
such a mood will carry one a long way.*® No fair and frail dame in 
London was without Adonis on her table.* Perhaps he perceived that 
he had transcended the bounds, for the tone of his next poem, the 
Rape of Lucrece, is quite different; but as he had already a spirit wide 
enough to embrace at the same time, as he did afterwards in his dramas, 
the two extremes of things, he continued none the less to follow his 


bent. The ‘sweet abandonment of love’ was the great occupation of his. 


life ; he was tender-hearted, and he was a poet: nothing more is required 
to be smitten, deceived, to suffer, to traverse without pause the circle 
of illusions and pains, which whirls and whirls round, and never ends. 
He had many loves of this kind, amongst others one for a sort of 
Marion Delorme, a miserable blind despotic passion, of which he felt 


the oppression and the shame, but from which nevertheless he could — 


not and would not deliver himself. Nothing can be sadder than his 
confessions, or mark better the madness of love, and the sentiment 4 
human weakness : 
‘ When my love swears that she is made of truth, 

I do believe her, though I know she lies,’ ® 
So said Alceste of Céliméne;* but what a soiled Céliméne is the crea- 
ture before whom Shakspeare kneels, with as much of scorn as of desire! 

‘ Those lips of thine, 
That have profaned their scarlet ornaments 





1 Venus and Adonis, v. 55-60. 2 Tbid. v. 853-858 

* Compare the first pieces of Alfred de Musset, Contes d’Italie et d’ Espagne. 

* Crawley, quoted by Ph. Chasles, Htudes sur Shakspeare. ® Sonnet 138. 

® Two characters in Molitre’s Misanthrope. The scene referred to is Act v. 
ac, 7.—TR. 





-cHapP, IV.] SHAKSPEARE. 301 
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine, 
Robb'd others’ beds’ revenues of their rents. 


Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov’st those 
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee."! 


This is plain-speaking and deep shamelessness of soul, such as we find 
only in the stews; and these are the intoxications, the outbreaks, the 
delirium into which the most refined artists fall, when they resign their 
own noble hand to these soft, voluptuous, and clinging ones. They are 
higher than princes, and they descend to the lowest depths of passion. 
Good and evil then lose their names ; all things are inverted : 


* How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame 
Which, tike a canker in the fragrant rose, 
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name! 
O, in what sweets dost thon thy sins enclose ! 
That tongue that tells the story of thy days, 
Making lascivious comments on thy sport, 
Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise ; 
Naming thy name blesses an ill report.’ 


What are proof, reason, the will, honour itself, when the passion is 
so absorbing? What, think you, can be said further to a man who 
answers, ‘I know all that you are going to say, and what does it all 
amount to?’ Great loves are inundations, which drown all repugnance 
and all delicacy of soul, all preconceived opinions and all accepted 
principles. henceforth the heart is found dead to all ordinary plea- 
sures; it can only feel and breathe on one side. Shakspeare envies 
the keys of the instrument over which his mistress’ fingers run. If he 
looks at flowers, it is she whom he pictures beyond them; and the 
mad splendours of dazzling poetry flood him repeatedly, as soon as he 
thinks of those glowing black eyes: 

‘ From you have I been absent in the spring, 
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim, 
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing, 

‘hat heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.’ 

He saw none of it: 


* Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white, 
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose.’* 


All this sweetness of spring was but her perfume and her shade: 


‘ The forward violet thus I did chide : 

“* Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells, 
If not from my love's breath! The purple pride, 

Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells 

In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed.” 






















1 Sonnet 142. * Sonnet 95. 
3 Sonnet 98, § Ibid. 


302 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK I. 


The lily I condemned for thy hand, 
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair: 
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand, 
One blushing shame, another white despair : 

A third, nor red nor white, had stol’n of both 
And to his robbery had annex’d thy breath; ... 
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see 

But sweet or colour it had stol’n from thee.’ + 


Passionate trifles, delicious affectations, worthy of Heine and the con- 
temporaries of Dante, which tell us of long rapturous dreams centred 
around one object. Under a domination so imperious and.sustained, 
what sentiment could maintain its ground? That of family? He | 
was married and had children,—a family which he went to see ‘once 
a year ;’ and it was probably on his return from one of these journeys 
that he used the words above quoted. Conscience? ‘ Love is too 
young to know what conscience is.’ Jealousy and anger? 
* For, thou betraying me, I do betray 
My nobler part to my gross body’s treason.’ # 
Repulses ? 


st 


* He is contented thy poor drudge to be, 
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.’ 3 
He is no longer young; she loves another, a handsome, young, light- 
haired fellow, his own dearest friend, whom he has presented to her, 
and whom she wishes to seduce: 
* Two loves I have of comfort and despair, 
Which like two spirits do suggest me still : 
The better angel is a man right fair, 
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill. 
To win me soon to hell, my female evil 
Tempteth my better angel from my side.’ 


And when she has succeeded in this,® he dares not confess it to himself, ~ 
but suffers all, like Moliére. What wretchedness there is in these ‘ 
trifles of every-day life! How man’s thoughts instinctively place 
by Shakspeare’s side the great unhappy French poet (Moliére), also 
a philosopher by nature, but more of a professional laugher, a mocker ~ 
of passionate old men, a bitter railer at deceived husbands, who, after 
having played one of his most approved comedies, said aloud to a 
companion, ‘ My dear friend, I am in despair; my wife does not love 
me!’ Neither glory, nor work, nor invention satisfy these vehement 


——_— =) oe 





1 Sonnet 99. - ® Sonnet 141. 3 Ibid. 

* Sonnet 144 ; also.the Passionate Pilgrim, 2. 

5 This new interpretation of the Sonnets is due to the ingenious and learned 
conjectures of M. Ph. Chasles.—For a short history of these Sonnets, see Dyce’s 
Shakspeare, i. pp. 96-102. This learned editor says: ‘I contend that allusions 
scattered through the whole series are not to be hastily referred to the personal 
circumstances of Shakspeare,’—Tr. 































“omar. Iv.] SHAKSPEARE. 303 


_ souls; love alone can fill them, because, with their senses and heart, 
it contents also their brain; and all the powers of man, imagination 
like the rest, find in it their concentration and their employment. 
‘Love is my sin,’ he said, as did Musset and Heine; and in the 
Sonnets we find traces of yet other passions, equally abandoned ; one 
in particular, seemingly for a great lady. The first half of his dramas, 
Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, the Two Gentlemen of 
Verona, preserve the warm imprint more completely; and we have 
only to consider his latest women’s character,’ to see with what ex- 
quisite tenderness, what full adoration, he loved them to the end. 

In this is all his genius; his was one of those delicate souls which, 
like a perfect instrument of music, vibrate of themselves at the slightest 
touch. This fine sensibility was the first thing observed in him. ‘My 
darling Shakspeare,’ ‘Sweet Swan of Avon :’ these words of Ben Jonson 
only confirm what his contemporaries reiterate. He was affectionate 
and kind, ‘ civil in demeanour, and excellent in the qualitie he pro- 
fesses ;’* if he had the transports, he had also the effusion of true 
artists; he was loved, men were delighted in his company; nothing is 
more sweet or engaging than this charm, this half-feminine abandon- 
ment ina man. His wit in conversation was ready, ingenious, nimble ; 
his gaiety brilliant ; his imagination easy, and so copious, that, as his 
comrades tell us, he never erased what he had written—at least when 
he wrote out a scene for the second time: it was the idea which he 
would change, not the words, by an after-glow of poetic thought, not 
_ with a painful tinkering of the verse. All these characteristics are 
combined in a single one: he had a sympathetic genius; I mean that 
naturally he knew how to forget himself and become transfused into 
all the objects which he conceived. Look around you at the great 
authors of your time, try to approach them, to become acquainted with 





' Miranda, Desdemona, Viola. The following are the first words of the Duke 
in Twelfth Night :— 
* If music be the food of love, play on ; 
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, 
The appetite may sicken, and so die. 
That strain again! it had a dying fall: 
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound, 
That breathes upon a bank of violets, 
Stealing and giving odour! Enough ; no more: 
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. 
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou, 
That, notwithstanding thy. capacity 
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there, 
Of what validity and pitch soe’er, 
But falls into abatement and low price, 
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy 
That it alone is high-fantastical.’ 
* H. Chettle, in repudiating Greene's sarcasm, attributed to him. 


304 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


them, to see them as they think, and you will observe the full force of 
this word. By an extraordinary instinct, they put themselves at once 
in the position of existences: men, animals, flowers, plants, landscapes, 
whatever the objects are, living or not, they feel by intuition the forces 
and tendencies which produce the visible external; and their soul, 
infinitely complex, becomes by its ceaseless metamorphoses, a sort of 
abstract of the universe. This is why they seem to live more than 
other men; they have no need to be taught, they divine. I have seen 
such a man, apropos of a piece of armour, a costume, a collection of 
furniture, enter into the middle-age more deeply than three savants 
together. They reconstruct, as they build, naturally, surely, by an 
inspiration which is a winged chain of reasoning. Shakspeare had 
only an imperfect education, ‘small Latin and less Greek,’ barely 
French and Italian,’ nothing else; he had not travelled, he had only 
read the current literature, he had picked up a few law words in the 
court of his little town; reckon up, if you can, all that he knew of man 
and of history. These men see more objects at a time; they grasp 
them more closely than other men, more quickly and thoroughly ; 
their mind is full, and runs over. They do not rest in simple reason- 
ing; at every idea their whole being, reflections, images, emotions, are 
set aquiver. See them at it; they gesticulate, mimic their thought, 
brim over with comparisons; even in their talk they are imaginative 
and original, with familiarity and boldness of speech, now happily, al- 
ways irregularly, according to the whims and starts of the adventurous 
improvisation. The sway, the brilliancy of their language is marvel- 
lous; so are their fits, the wide leaps with which they couple widely- 
removed ideas, annihilating distance, passing from pathos to humour, 
from vehemence to gentleness. This extraordinary rapture is the last 
thing to quit them. If perchance ideas fail, or if their melancholy 
is too harsh, they still speak and produce, even if it be buffooneries ; 
they become clowns, though at their own expense, and to their own - 
hurt. I know one who will mutter bad puns when he thinks he is 
dying, or has a mind to kill himself; the inner wheel continues to turn, 
even upon nothing, that wheel which man must needs see ever turning, 
even though it tear him as it turns; his clown-tricks are an outlet; 
you will find him, this inextinguishable fellow, this ironical puppet, at 
Ophelia’s tomb, at Cleopatra’s death-bed, at Juliet’s funeral. High or 
low, these men must always be at some extreme. They feel their 
good and their ill too deeply; they expand the state of their soul too 
widely, by a sort of involuntary novel. After the scandals and the 
disgusts by which they debase themselves beyond measure, they rise 
and become exalted in a marvellous fashion, even trembling with pride 
and joy. ‘Haply,’ says Shakspeare, after one of these dull moods : 





1 Dyce, Shakspeare, i. 27: ‘Of French and Italian, I apprehend, he knew but 
little, ’"—Ta. 


CHAP. IV.] SHAKSPEARE. 305 


* Haply I think on thee, and then my state, 
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate."* 


Then all fades away, as in a grate where a stronger flame than usual 
has left no substantial fuel behind it. 


* That time of year thou mayst in me behold 
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 
Bare rnin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. 
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day 
As after sunset fadeth in the west, 
Which by and by black night doth take away, 
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.'* . . 
* No longer mourn for me when I am dead 
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell 
Give warning to the world that I am fled 
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell : 
Nay, if you read this line, remember not 
The hand that writ it ; for I love you so, 
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot 
If thinking on me then should make you woe.’ ® 


These sudden alternations of joy and sadness, divine transports and deep 
melancholies, exquisite tenderness and womanly depressions, depict the 
poet, extreme in emotions, ceaselessly troubled with grief or merriment, 
sensible of the slightest shock, more strong, more dainty in enjoyment 
and suffering than other men, capable of more intense and sweeter 
dreams, within whom is stirred an imaginary world of graceful or 
terrible beings, all impassioned like their author. 

Such as I have described him, however, he found his resting-place. 
Early, at least from an external point, he settled down to an orderly, 
sensible, citizen-like existence, engaged in business, provident of the 
future. He remained on the stage for at least seventeen years, though 
taking secondary parts;* he sets his wits at the same time to the 
touching up of plays with so much activity, that Greene called him ‘an 
upstart crow beautified with our feathers; ...an absolute Johannes 
 factotum, in his owne conceyt the onely shake-scene in a countrey.’* 
At the age of thirty-three he had amassed enough to buy at Stratford 
a house with two barns and two gardens, and he went on steadier and 
steadier in the same course. A man attains only to easy circumstances 
by his own labour; if he gains wealth, it is by making others labour 
for him. This is why, to the trades of actor and suthor, 

added those of manager and director of a theatre. He acquired a 
_ partial proprietorship in the Blackfriars and Globe theatres, farmed 































1 Sonnet 29. * Sonnet 73. 3 Sonnet 71, 
* The part in which he excelled was that of the ghost in Hamlet, 
§ Greene's A Groatsworth of Wit, etc. 


U 


306 THE RENAISSANCE. - [BOOK It. 


tithes, bought large pieces of land, more houses, gave a dowry to his 
daughter Susanna, and finally retired to his native town on his property, 
in his own house, like a good landlord, an honest citizen, who manages 
his fortune fitly, and takes his share of municipal work. He had an 
income of two or three hundred pounds, which would be equivalent to 
about eight or twelve hundred at the present time, and according to 
tradition, lived cheerfully and on good terms with his neighbours; at 
all events, it does not seem that he thought much about his literary 
glory, for he did not even take the trouble to collect and publish his 
works. One of his daughters married a physician, the other a wine 
merchant; the last did not even know how to sign her name. He lent 
money, and cut a good figure in this little world. Strange close; one 
which at first sight resembles more that of a shopkeeper than of a poet. 
Must we attribute it to that English instinct which places happiness in 
the life of a country gentleman and a landlord with a good rent-roll, 
well connected, surrounded by comforts, who quietly rejoices in his 
settled respectability,’ his domestic authority, and his county standing? 
Or rather, was Shakspeare, like Voltaire, a common-sense man, though 
of an imaginative brain, keeping a sound judgment under the sparkling 
of his genius, prudent from scepticism, economical through lack of 
independence, and capable, after going the round of human ideas, of 
deciding with Candide,’ that the best thing one can do is ‘to cultivate 
one’s garden?’ I had rather think, as his full and solid head suggests,® 
that by the mere force of his overflowing imagination he escaped, like 
Goethe, the perils of an overflowing imagination; that in depicting 
passion, he succeeded, like Goethe, in quelling passion in his own case | 
‘that the lava did not break out in his conduct, because it found issue in 
his poetry; that his theatre redeemed his life; and that, having passed, 
by sympathy, through every kind of folly and wretchedness that is 
incident to human existence, he was able to settle down amidst them. 
with a calm and melancholy smile, listening, for distraction, to the aerial 
music of the fancies in which he revelled.* I am willing to believe, 
lastly, that in frame as in the rest, he belonged to his great generation 
and his great age; that with him, as with Rabelais, Titian, Michael 
Angelo, and Rubens, the solidity of his muscles balanced the sensibility 
of his nerves; that in those days the human machine, more severely 
tried and more firmly constructed, could withstand the storms of passion 
and the fire of inspiration ; that soul and body were still at equilibrium; 
|that genius was then a blossom, and not, as now, a disease. Of all this 
we can but conjecture: if we would see the man more closely, we must 
seek him in his works. 





1 «He was a respectable man.’ ‘A good word; what does it mean?’ ‘He 
kept a gig.’—(From Thurtell’s trial for the murder of Weare.) 

2 The model of an optimist, the hero of one of Voltaire’s tales.—Tar. 

3 See his portraits, and in particular his bust. 

* Especially in his later plays: Tempest, Twelfth Night. 








~ouar. Iv] SHAKSPEARE. 307 


Il. 


Let us then look for the man, and in his style. The style explains 
the work; whilst showing the principal features of the genius, it infers 
the rest. When we have once grasped the dominant faculty, we see 
the whole artist developed like a flower. 
imagines with copiousness and excess; he spreads meta- 
phors profusely over all he writes; every instant abstract ideas are 
changed into images; it is a series of paintings which is unfolded in 
his mind. He does not seek them, they come of themselves; they 
crowd within him, covering his arguments; they dim with their bright- 
ness the pure light of logic. He does not labour to explain or prove; 
picture on picture, image on image, he is for ever copying the strange 
and splendid visions which are engendered one within another, and are 
heaped up within him. Compare to our dull writers this passage, which 
I take at hazard from a tranquil dialogue : 

* The single and peculiar life is bound, 

With all the strength and ardour of the mind, 

To keep itself from noyance ; but much more 

That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest 

The lives of many. The cease of majesty 

Dies not alone ; but, like a gulf, doth draw 

What's near it with it: it is a massy wheel, 

Fix’d on the summit of the highest mount, 

To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things 

Are mortised and adjoin’d ; which, when it falls, 

Each small annexment, petty consequence, 

Attends the boisterous ruin. Never alone 

Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.’ ! 
Here we have three successive images to express the same thought. 
It is a whole blossoming; a bough grows from the trunk, from that an- 
other, which is multiplied into numerous fresh branches, Instead of a 
smooth road, traced by a regular line of dry and well-fixed stakes, you 
enter a wood, crowded with interwoven trees and luxuriant bushes, 
which conceal you and close your path, which delight and dazzle your 
eyes by the magnificence of their verdure and the wealth of their 
bloom. You are astonished at first, modern mind that you are, busi- 
ness man, used to the clear dissertations of classical poetry; you 
become cross; you think the author is joking, and that through self- 
esteem and bad taste he is misleading you and himself in his garden 
thickets. By no means; if he speaks thus, it is not from choice, but of 
necessity ; metaphor is not his whim, but the form of his thought. In 
the height of passion, he imagines still When Hamlet, in despair, 
remembers his father’s noble form, he sees the mythological pictures 
with which the taste of the age filled the very streets: 


1 Hamlet, iii. 3. 



























308 THE RENAISSANCE. [Book I 


* A station like the herald Mercury 
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill.’? 


This charming vision, in the midst of a bloody invective, proves that 
there lurks a painter underneath the poet. Involuntarily and out of 
season, he tears off the tragic mask which covered his face; and the 
reader discovers, behind the contracted features of this terrible mask, a 
graceful and inspired smile of which he had not dreamed. 
Such an imagination must needs be vehement. Every metaphor is 
a convulsion. Whosoever involuntarily and naturally transforms a dry 
idea into an image, has his brain on fire: true metaphors are flaming 
apparitions, which are like a picture in a flash of lightning. Never, I 
think, in any nation of Europe, or in any age of history, has so deep a 
passion been seen. Shakspeare’s style is a compound of furious expres- 
sions. No man has submitted words to such a contortion. Mingled 
contrasts, raving exaggerations, apostrophes, exclamations, the whole 
fury of the ode, inversion of ideas, accumulation‘ of images, the horrible 
and the divine, jumbled into the same line; it seems to my fancy as 
though he never writes a word without shouting it. ‘ What have I 
done?’ the queen asks Hamlet. He answers: 
* Such an act 

That blurs the grace and blush of modesty, 

Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose 

From the fair forehead of an innocent love, 

And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows 

As false as dicers’ oaths: O, such a deed 

As from the body of contraction plucks 

The very soul, and sweet religion makes 

A rhapsody of words: heaven’s face doth glow ; 

Yea, this solidity and compound mass, 

With tristful visage, as against the doom, 

Is thought-sick at the act.’? 


It is the style of phrensy. Yet I have not given all. The metaphors are 
all exaggerated, the ideas all verge on the absurd. All is transformed 
and disfigured by the whirlwind of passion. The contagion of the crime, 
which he denounces, has marred his whole nature. He no longer sees 
anything in the world but corruption and lying. To vilify the virtuous 
were little; he vilifies virtue herself. Inanimate things are sucked into 
the whirl of grief. The sky’s red tint at sunset, the pallid shade spread 
by night over the landscape, become the blush and the pallor of shame, 
and the wretched man who speaks and weeps sees the whole world totter 
with him in the dimness of despair. 

Hamlet, it will be said, is half-mad; this explains his vehemence of 
expression. The truth is that Hamlet, here, is Shakspeare. Be the 
situation terrible or peaceful, whether he is engaged on an invective or 





1 Act iii. Sc, 4, 2 Ibid, 








CHAP. IV.] SHAKSPEARE. 309 


a conversation, the style is excessive throughout. Shakspeare never 
sees things tranquilly. All the powers of his mind are concentrated in 
the present image or idea. He is buried and absorbed in it. With 
such a genius, we are on the brink of an abyss; the eddying water 
dashes in headlong, devouring whatever objects it meets, bringing them 
to light again, if at all, trarisformed and mutilated. We pause stupe- 
fied before these convulsive metaphors, which might have been written 
by a fevered hand in a night’s delirium, which gather a pageful of ideas 
and pictures in half a sentence, which scorch the eyes they would en- 
lighten. Words lose their sense; constructions are put out of joint; 
paradoxes of style, apparently false expressions, which a man might 
occasionally venture upon with diffidence in the transport of his rapture, 
become the ordinary language; he dazzles, he repels, he terrifies, he 
disgusts, he oppresses; his verses are a piercing and sublime song, 
pitched in too high a key, above the reach of our organs, which offends 
our ears, of which our mind alone can divine the justice and beauty. 
Yet this is little; for that singular force of concentration is re- 
doubled by the suddenness of the dash which it displays. In Shak- 
speare there is no preparation, no adaptation, no development, no care 
to make himself understood. Like a too fiery and powerful horse, he 
bounds, but cannot run. He bridges in a couple of words an enormous 
interval; is at the two poles in a single instant. The reader vainly 
looks for the intermediate track ; confounded by these prodigious leaps, 
he wonders by what miracle the poet has entered upon a new idea 
the very moment when he quitted the last, seeing perhaps between the 
two images a long scale of transitions, which we pace painfully step by 
step, but which he has spanned in a stride. Shakspeare flies, we creep. 
Hence comes a style made up of conceits, bold images shattered in an 
instant by others still bolder, barely indicated ideas completed by others 
far removed, no visible connexion, but a visible incoherence; at every 
step we halt, the track failing; and there, far above us, lo, stands the 
poet, and we find that we have ventured in his footsteps, through a 
craggy land, full of precipices, which he threads, as if it were a 
straightforward road, but on which our greatest efforts barely carry 
us along. 
What will you think, further, if we observe that these vehement ex- 
_ pressions, so unexpected, instead of following one after the other, slowly 
and with effort, are hurled out by hundreds, with an impetuous ease 
and abundance, like the bubbling waves from a welling spring, which are 
heaped together, rise one above another, and find no place wide enough 
to spread themselves and fall? You may find in Romeo and Juliet a 
score of examples of this inexhaustible inspiration. The two lovers 
pile up an infinite mass of metaphors, impassioned exaggerations, 
clenches, contorted phrases, amorous extravagances. Their language 
is like the trill of nightingales. Shakspeare’s wits, Mercutio, Beatrice, 
_ Rosalind, his clowns, buffoons, sparkle with far-fetched jokes, which 


310 THE RENAISSANCE. . [Book 1. 


rattle out like a musketry-fire. There is none of them but provides 
enough play of words to stock a whole theatre. Lear’s curses, or Queen’ 
Margaret’s, would suffice for all the madmen in an asylum, or all the. 
oppressed of the earth. The sonnets are a delirium of ideas and images, 
turned out with an energy enough to make a man giddy. His first 
poem, Venus and Adonis, is the sensual ecstasy of a Correggio, insatiable 
and excited. This exuberant fecundity intensifies qualities already in 
excess, and multiplies a hundred-fold the luxuriance of metaphor, the 
incoherence of style, and the unbridled vehemence of expression.* 

All that I have said may be compressed into a few words. Objects 
were taken into his mind organised and complete; they pass into ours 
disjointed, decomposed, fragmentarily. He thought.in the lump, we 
think piecemeal; hence his style and our style—two languages not 
to be reconciled. We, for our part, writers and reasoners, can note 
precisely by a word each isolated fraction of an idea, and represent 
the. due order of its parts by the due order of our expressions. We 
advance gradually ; we affiliate, go down to the roots, try and treat our 
words as numbers, our sentences as equations; we employ but general 
terms, which every mind can understand, and regular constructions, into 
which any mind can enter; we attain justness and clearness, not life. 
Shakspeare lets justness and clearness look out for themselves, and attains 
life. From amidst his complex conception and his coloured semi-vision 
he grasps a fragment, a quivering fibre, and shows it; it is for you, 
from this fragment, to divine the rest. He, behind the word, has a 
whole picture, an attitude, a long argument abridged, a mass of swarm- 
ing ideas; you know them, these abbreviative, condensive words: these 
are they which we launch out from the furnace of invention, in a fit of 
passion—words of slang or of fashion, which appeal to local memory 
or individual experience ;? little concocted and incorrect phrases, which, 
by their irregularity, express the suddenness and the breaks of the 
inner sensation ; trivial words, exaggerated figures.? There is a gesture 
beneath each, a quick contraction of the brows, a curl of laughing lips, 
a clown’s trick, an unhinging of the whole machine. None of them 
mark ideas; each is the extremity and issue of a complete mimic action ; 
none is the expression and definition of a partial and limited idea. 
This is why Shakspeare is strange and powerful, obscure and original, 
beyond all the poets of his or any other age; the most immoderate of 
all violators of language, the most marvellous of all creators of souls, 





1 This is why, in the eyes of a writer of the seventeenth century, Shakspeare’s — 
style is the most obscure, pretentious, painful, barbarous, and absurd, that could 
be imagined. 

* Shakspeare’s vocabulary is the most copious of all. It comprises about 15,000 
words ; Milton’s only 8000. 

5 See the conversation of Laertes and his sister, and of Laertes and Polonius, 
in Hamlet. The style is foreign to the situation ; and we see here plainly the 
natural and necessary process of Shakspeare’s thought. 





cmap. J SHAKSPEARE. $11 


the farthest removed from regular logic and classical reason, the one 
most capable of exciting in us a world of forms, and of placing living 
beings before us. 


III. 


Let us reconstruct this world, so as to find in it the imprint of its 
creator. A poet does not copy at random the manners which surround 
him ; he selects from this vast material, and involuntarily brings upon 
the stage the moods of the heart and the conduct which best suit his 
talent. If he is a logician, a moralist, an orator, as, for instance, one 
of the French great tragic poets (Racine) of the seventeenth century, 
he will only represent noble manners; he will avoid low characters; he 
will have a horror of valets and the plebs ; he will observe the greatest 
decorum in respect of the strongest outbreaks of passion ; he will reject 
as scandalous every low or indecent word; he will give us reason, 
loftiness, good taste throughout ; he will suppress the familiarity, child- 
ishness, artlessness, gay banter of domestic life ; he will blot out precise 
details, special traits, and will raise tragedy into a serene and sublime 
region, where his abstract personages, unencumbered by time and 
space, after an exchange of eloquent harangues and able dissertations, 
will kill each other becomingly, and as though they were merely con- 
cluding a ceremony. Shakspeare does just the contrary, because his 
genius is the exact opposite. His master faculty is an impassioned 
imagination, freed from the fetters of reason and morality. He aban- 
dons himself to it, and finds in man nothing that he would care to lop 
off. He accepts nature, and finds it beautiful in its entirety. He 
paints it in its littlenesses, its deformities, its weaknesses, its excesses, 
its irregularities, and in its rages; he exhibits man at his meals, in 
bed, at play, drunk, mad, sick; he adds that which passes behind the 
stage to that which passes on the stage. He does not dream of en- 
nobling, but of copying human life, and aspires only to make his copy | 
more energetic and more striking than the original. 

Hence the morals of this drama; and first, the want of dignity. 
Dignity arises from self-command. A man selects the most noble of 
his acts and attitudes, and allows himself no other. Shakspeare’s cha- 
racters select none, but allow themselves all. His kings are men, and 
fathers of families. The terrible Leontes, who is about to order the 
death of his wife and his friend, plays like a child with his son: 
caresses him, gives him all the pretty little pet names which mothers 
are wont to employ; he dares be trivial; he gabbles like a nurse; he 
has her language, and fulfils her offices: 


* Leontes. What, hast smutch'd thy nose? 
They say it is a copy out of mine, Come, captain, 
We must be neat ; not neat, but cleanly, captain: . . « 
Come, sir page, 
Look on me with your welkin eye : sweet villain | 





312 THE RENAISSANCE. ' * [BooK m1. 


Most dear’st! my collop . . . Looking on the lines 
Of my boy’s face, methoughts I did recoil 
Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech’d, 
In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled, 
Lest it should bite its master. . . . 
How like, methought, I then was to this kernel, 
This squash, this gentleman! . . . My brother, 
Are you so fond of your young prince as we 
De seem to be of ours ? 

Polizxenes. If at home, sir, 
He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter, 
Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy, 
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all : 
He makes a July’s day short as December, 
And with his varying childness cures in me 
Thoughts that would thick my blood.’ + 


There are a score of such passages in Shakspeare. The great 
passions, with him as in nature, are preceded or followed by trivial 


actions, scraps of talk, commonplace sentiments. Strong emotions are — 


accidents in our life: to drink, to eat, to talk of indifferent things, to 
carry out mechanically an habitual duty, to dream of some stale 
pleasure or some ordinary annoyance, that is the business of our lives. 
Shakspeare paints us as we are; his heroes bow, ask people for news, 
speak of rain and fine weather, as often and as casually as ourselves, on 
the very eve of falling into the extremity of misery, or of plunging into 
fatal resolutions. Hamlet asks what’s o’clock, finds the wind biting, 
talks of feasts and music heard without; and this quiet talk, so little in 
harmony with action, so full of slight, insignificant facts, which chance 
alone has raised up, lasts until the moment when his father’s ghost, 
rising in the darkness, reveals the assassination which it is his duty to 
avenge. 


Reason tells us that our manners should be measured; this is why — 


the manners which Shakspeare paints are not so. Pure nature is 
violent, passionate; she admits no excuses, suffers no moderation, takes 
nc count of circumstances, wills blindly, breaks out into railing, has the 


irrationality, ardour, anger of children. Shakspeare’s characters have 


hot blood and a ready hand. They cannot restrain themselves, they 
abandon themselves at once to their grief, indignation, love, and plunge 
fatally down the steep slope, where their passion urges them. How 
many need I quote? Timon, Leonato, Cressida, all the young girls, all 
the chief characters in the great dramas; everywhere Shakspeare paints 
the unreflecting impetuosity of immediate action. Capulet tells his 
daughter Juliet that in three days she is to marry Earl Paris, and bids 
her be proud of it; she answers that she is not proud of it, and yet she 
thanks the earl for this proof of love. Compare Capulet’s fury with the 





1 Winter's Tale, i. 2. 





= eet FF a" Te”, a »* * es °6 COUR é — = ™ “a al = — 
es - oe . 5. >" ve § at 
_ =, Ij . 


CHAP. WJ | SHAKSPEARE. | 313 











anger of Orgon,’ and you may measure the difference of the two poets 
and the two civilisations: 


* Capulet. How now, how now, chop-logic! What is this? 
Proud,” and “I thank you,” and ‘I thank you not ;” 
And yet ‘not proud,” mistress minion, you, 

Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds, 
But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next, 
To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s church, 
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. 
Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage ! 
You tallow-face ! 

Juliet. Good father, I beseech you on my knees, 
Hear me with patience but to speak a word. 

C. Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch ! 
I tell thee what: get thee to church o’ Thursday, 
Or never after look me in the face : 
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me; 
My fingers itch. ... < 

Lady C. You are too hot. 

C. God's bread ! it makes me mad: 
Day, night, hour, tide, time, work, play, 
Alone, in company, still my care hath been 
To have her match’d: and having now provided 
A gentleman of noble parentage, 
Of fair demesnes, youthful, and nobly train’d, 
Stuff'd, as they say, with honourable parts, 
Proportion’d as one’s thought would wish a man ; 
And then to have a wretched puling fool, 
A whining mammet, in her fortune’s tender, 
To answer, ‘*I'll not wed ; I cannot love, 
I am too young; I pray you, pardon me,”— 
But, an you will not wed, I'll pardon you: 
Graze where you will, you shall not house with me: 
Look to’t, think on’t, I do not use to jest. 
Thursday is near ; lay hand on heart, advise: 
An you be mine, I'll give you to my friend ; 
An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, 
For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee.’* 


This method of exhorting one’s child to marry is peculiar to 
Shakspeare and the sixteenth century. Contradiction to these men 
was like a red rag to a bull: it drove them mad, 

We might be sure that in this age, and on this stage, decency was 
a thing unknown. It is wearisome, being a check; men got rid of it, 
because it was wearisome. It is a gift of reason and morality; as in- 
is produced by nature and passion. Shakspeare’s words are 
too indecent to be translated. His characters call things by their dirty 





4 One of Moliére’s characters in Tartufe.—Tr. 
* Romeo and Juliet, iii, 5, 


314 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK 0. 


names, and compél the thoughts to particular images of physical love. 
‘The talk of gentlemen and ladies is full of coarse allusions; we should 
have to find out an alehouse of the lowest description to hear the like 
words nowadays.* 

It would be in an alehouse too that we should have to look for the 
rude jests and brutal kind of wit which form the staple of these conver- 
sations. Kindly politeness is the slow fruit of an advanced reflection ; 
it is a sort of humanity and kindliness applied to small acts and every- 
day discourse; it bids man soften towards others, and forget himself 
in others; it constrains simple nature, which is selfish and gross. This 
is why it is absent from the manners of the drama we are considering. 
You will see carmen, out of sportiveness and good humour, deal one 
another hard blows: so it is pretty well with the conversation of the 
lords and ladies who are in a sportive mood; for instance, Beatrice and 
Benedick, very well bred folk as things go,? with a great name for 
wit and politeness, whose smart retorts create amusement for the 
bystanders. These ‘skirmishes of wit’ consist in telling one another 
plainly: You are a coward, a glutton, an idiot, a buffoon, a rake, a 
brute! You are a parrot’s tongue, a fool, a... (the word is there). 
Benedick says: 

‘I will go... to the Antipodes. . . rather than hold three words’ conference 
with this harpy. .. . I cannot endure my Lady Tongue. ... 
Don Pedro. You have put him down, lady, you have put him down. 
Beatrice. So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I should prove 
the mother of fools.’ * 


We can infer the tone they use when in anger. Emilia, in Othello, says: 


‘ He call’d her whore ; a beggar in his drink 
Could not have laid such terms upon his callat.’ * 


| They have a vocabulary of foul words as complete as that of Rabelais, 


and they drain it dry. They catch up handfuls of mud, and hurl it at — 


their enemy, not conceiving themselves to be smirched. 

Their actions correspond. They go without shame or pity to the 
limits of their passion. They kill, poison, violate, burn; the stage is full 
of abominations. Shakspeare lugs upon the stage all the atrocious deeds 
of the civil wars. These are the ways of wolves and hyenas. We must 
read of Jack Cade’s sedition to gain an idea of this madness and fury. 
We might imagine we were seeing infuriated beasts, the murderous 
recklessness of a wolf in a sheepfold, the brutality of a hog fouling and 
rolling himself in filth and blood. They ruin, kill, butcher each other ; 
with their feet in the blood of their victims, they call for food and 





x 


1 Henry VIII. ii. 8, ete. 

* Much Ado about Nothing. See also the manner in which Henry v. pays 
court to Katharine of France (vy. 2). 

* Much Ado about Nothing, ii. 1, * Act iv. 2. 





le i 






















cmap. v.) SIAKSPEARE, 315 


drink; they stick heads on pikes and make them kiss one another, and 
they Jaugh. 

‘ Jack Cade, There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny. 
+ « « There shall be no money ; all shall eat and drink on my score, and I will 
apparel them all in one livery. . . . And here, sitting upon London-stone, I 
charge and command that, of the city's cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but 
claret wine this first year of our reign. . . . Away, burn all the records of the 
realm: my mouth shall be the parliament of England. . . . And henceforth all 
things shall be in common. . . . What canst thou answer to my majesty for 
giving up of Normandy unto Mounsieur Basimecu, the dauphin of France? .. . 
The proudest peer in the realm shall not wear a head on his shoulders, unless he 
pay me tribute ; there shall not a maid be married, but she shall pay to me her 
maidenhead ere they have it. (Re-enter rebels with the heads of Lord Say and hia 
son-in-law.) But is not this braver? Let them kiss one another, for they loved 
well when they were alive.’! 


Man must not be let loose; we know not what lusts and furies 
may brood under a sober guise. Nature was never so hideous, and 
this hideousness is the truth. 

Are these cannibal moods only met with among the scum? Why, 
the princes are worse. The Duke of Cornwall orders the old Earl of 
Gloucester to be tied to a chair, because, owing to him, King Lear has 
escaped : 


* Fellows, hold the chair. 
Upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot. ~ 
(Gloucester is held down in the chair, while Cornwall plucks 
out one of his eyes, and sets his foot on it.) 
Gloster. He that will think to live till he be old, 
Give me some help! O cruel! O you gods! 
Regan. One side will mock another ; the other too. 
Cornwall. If you see vengeance,— 
Servant. Hold your hand, my lord: 
I have served you ever since I was a child ; 
But better service have I never done you, 
Than now to bid you hold. Reg. How now, you dog! 
Serv. If you did wear a beard upon your chin, 
I'd shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean? 
Corn, My villain ! (Draws, and runs at him.) 
Serv. Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger. 
(Draws ; they fight ; Cornwall is wounded.) 
Régan. Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus! 
(Snatches a sword, comes behind, and stabs him.) 
Serv. O, Iam slain! My lord, you have one eye left 
To see some mischief on him. O! (Dies.) 
Corn. Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly! 
Where is thy lustre now ? 
Gloster. All dark and comfortless. Where's my son?. . . 
Regan. Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell 
His way to Dover.’ 


1 Henry VI. 2d part, iv. 2, 6, 7. 3 King Lear, iii. 7. 





316 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


Such are the manners of that stage. They are unbridled, like those 
of the age, and like the poet’s imagination. To copy the common 
actions of every-day life, the puerilities and feeblenesses to which the 
greatest continually sink, the transports which degrade them, the 
indecent, harsh, or foul words, the atrocious deeds in which licence 
revels, the brutality and ferocity of primitive nature, is the work of a 
free and unencumbered imagination. To copy this hideousness and 
these excesses with a selection of such familiar, significant, precise de- 
tails, that they reveal under every word of every personage the complete 
condition of civilisation, is the work of a concentrated and all-powerful 
imagination. This species of manners and this energy of description 
indicate the same faculty, unique and excessive, which the style had 
already indicated. 


IV. 


On this common background stands out a population of distinct 
living figures, illuminated by an intense light, in striking relief. This 
creative power is Shakspeare’s great gift, and it communicates an extra- 
ordinary significance to his words. Every word pronounced by one 
of his characters enables us to see, besides the idea which it contains 
and the emotion which prompted it, the aggregate of the qualities and 
the entire character which produced it—the mood, physical attitude, 
bearing, look of the man, all instantaneously, with a clearness and force 
approached by no one. The words which strike our ears are not the 
thousandth part of those we hear within; they are like sparks thrown 
off at intervals; the eyes catch rare flashes of flame; the mind alone 
perceives the vast conflagration of which they are the signs and the 
effect. He gives us two dramas in one: the first strange, convulsive, 
curtailed, visible; the other consistent, immense, invisible: the one 
covers the other so well, that as a rule we do not realise that we are 
perusing words: we hear the roll of those terrible voices, we see con- 
tracted features, glowing eyes, pallid faces; we see the rages, the 
furious resolutions which mount to the brain with the feverish blood, 
and descend to the sharp-strung nerves. ‘This property possessed by 
every phrase to exhibit a world of sentiments and forms, comes from 
the fact that the phrase is actually caused by a world of emotions and 
images. Shakspeare, when he wrote, felt all that we feel, and much 
besides. He had the prodigious faculty of seeing in a twinkling of the 
eye a complete character, body, mind, past and present, in every detail 
and every depth of his being, with the exact attitude and the expres- 
sion of face, which the situation demanded. A word here and there of 
Hamlet or Othello would need for its explanation three pages of com- 
mentaries ; each of the half-understood thoughts, which the commen- 
tator may have discovered, has left its trace in the turn of the phrase, 
in the nature of the metaphor, in the order of the words; nowadays, in 
pursuing these traces, we divine the thoughts. These innumerable 


ee Ee OO 







x. 


CHAP. IV. SHAKSPEARE. 317 
traces have been impressed in a second, within the compass of a line. 
In the next line there are as many, impressed just as quickly, and 
in the same compass. You can gauge the concentration and the 
velocity of the imagination which creates thus. 

These characters are all of the same family. Good or bad, gross 
or delicate, refined or awkward, Shakspeare gives them all the same 
kind of spirit which is his own. He has made of them imaginative 
people, void of will and reason, impassioned machines, vehemently 
hurled one upon another, who were the representation of whatever is 
most natural and most abandoned in human nature. Let us act the 
play to ourselves, and see in all its stages this clanship of figures, this 
prominence of portraits. 

Lowest of all are the stupid folk, babbling or brutish. Imagination 
already exists there, where reason is not yet born; it exists also here, 
where reason is dead. The idiot and the brute blindly follow the 
phantoms which exist in their benumbed or mechanical brains. No 
poet has understood this mechanism like Shakspeare. His Caliban, for 
instance, a deformed savage, fed on roots, growls like a beast under the 
hand of Prospero, who has subdued him. He howls continually against 
his master, though he knows that every curse will be paid back with 
‘cramps and aches.’ He is a chained wolf, trembling and fierce, who tries 
to bite when approached, and who crouches when he sees the lash raised 
above him. He has a foul sensuality, a loud base laugh, the gluttony 
of degraded humanity. He wished to violate Miranda in her sleep. He 
cries for his food, and gorges himself when he gets it. A sailor who 
had landed in the island, Stephano, gives him wine; he kisses his feet, 
and takes him fora god; he asks if he has not dropped from heaven, 
and adores him. We find in him rebellious and baffled passions, which 
are eager to be avenged and satiated. Stephano had beaten his comrade. 
Caliban cries, ‘ Beat him enough: after a little time I'll beat him too.’ 
He prays Stephano to come with him and murder Prospero in his sleep ; 
he thirsts to lead him there, and sees his master already with his throat 
cut, and his brains scattered on the earth: 


* Prithee, my king, be quiet. See’st thou here, 
This is the mouth o’ the cell: no noise, and enter. 
Do that good mischief which may make this island 
Thine own for ever, and I, thy Caliban, 
For aye thy foot-licker.’ * 


Others, like Ajax and Cloten, are more like men, and yet it is pure 
mood that Shakspeare depicts in them, as in Caliban. The clogging 
corporeal machine, the mass of muscles, the thick blood coursing in the 
_ veins of these fighting brutes, oppress the intelligence, and leave no life 

but for animal passions. Ajax uses his fists, and devours meat; that is 





1 The Tempest, iv. 1, 


ed 


318 TUE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK It. 


his existence; if he is jealous of Achilles, it is pretty much as a bull is 
jealous of his fellow. He permits himself to be restrained and led by . 
Ulysses, without looking before him: the grossest flattery decoys him. The 
Greeks have urged him to accept Hector’s challenge. Behold him puffed 
up with pride, scorning to answer any one, not knowing what he says or 
does. Thersites cries, ‘Good-morrow, Ajax ;’ and he replies, ‘ Thanks, 
Agamemnon.’ He has no further thought than to contemplate his 
enormous frame, and roll majestically his great stupid eyes. When the 
day comes, he strikes at Hector as on an anvil. Aftef a good while they 
are separated. ‘Iam not warm yet,’ says Ajax, ‘let us-fight again.’* 
Cloten is less massive than this phlegmatic ox; but he is just as idiotic, 
just as vainglorious, just as coarse. The beautiful Imogen, urged by 
his insults and his scullion manners, tells him that his whole body is 
not worth as much as Posthumus’ garment. He is stung to the quick, 
repeats the word ten times; he cannot shake off the idea, and runs at it 
again and again with his head down, like an angry ram: 


‘ Cloten. ‘‘His garment?” Now, the devil— Jmogen. To Dorothy my woman 
hie thee presently— C. ‘‘ His garment ?”... You have abused me: ‘‘ His meanest 
garment!” . . . I'll be revenged: ‘‘ His meanest garment!” Well.’? 


F393 


He gets some of Posthumus’ garments, and goes to Milford Haven, ex- 
pecting to meet Imogen there. On his way he mutters thus: 


‘ With that suit upon my back, will I ravish her: first kill him, and in her 
eyes; there shall she see my valour, which will then be a torment to her contempt. 
He on the ground, my speech of insultment ended on his dead body, and when . 
my lust has dined,—which, as I say, to vex her I will execute in the clothes that 
she so praised,—to the court I'll knock her back, foot her home again.’ 










Others, again, are but babblers: for example, Polonius, the grave brain- 
less counsellor; a great baby, not yet out of his ‘swathing clouts ;’ 
solemn booby, who rains on men a shower of counsels, compliments, 
and maxims; a sort of court speaking-trumpet, useful in grand cere- 
monies, with the air of a thinker, but fit only to spout words. But 
the most complete of all these characters is that of the nurse in Romeo 
and Juliet, a gossip, loose in her talk, a regular kitchen-oracle, smelling 
of the stew-pan and old boots, foolish, impudent, immoral, but other- 
wise a good creature, and affectionate to her child. Mark this dis- 
jointed and never-ending gossip’s babble: 


‘ Nurse. ’Faith I can tell her age unto an hour. 

Lady Capulet, She’s not fourteen... . 

Nurse. Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen. 
Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!— 
Were of an age: well, Susan is with God ; 





1 See Troilus and Cressida, ii. 3, the jesting manner in which the Sucre 
drive on this fierce brute. 
* Cymbeline, ii. 8, 8 [bid iii. 5. a 


~ cuar. IV] SHAKSPEARE. 319 


She was too good for me: but, as I said, 
On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen ; 
That shall she, marry; I remember it well. 
"Tis since the earthquake now eleven years ; 
And she was wean'd,—I never shall forget it,— 
Of all the days of the year, upon that day ; 
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug, 
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall ; 
My lord and you were then at Mantua :— 
Nay, I do bear a brain :—but, as I said, 
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple 
_ Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, 
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug! 
Shake, quoth the dove-house: ‘twas no need, I trow, 
To bid me trudge: 
And since that time it is eleven years ; 
For then she could stand alone; nay, by the rood, 
She could have run and waddled all about ; 
For even the day before, she broke her brow.’? 


Then she tells an indecent anecdote, which she begins over again four 
times. She is silenced: what then? She has her anecdote in her 
head, and cannot cease repeating it and laughing to herself. Endless 
repetitions are the mind’s first step. The vulgar do not pursue the 
straight line of reasoning and of the story; they repeat their steps, as 
it were merely marking time: struck with an image, they keep it for 
an hour before their eyes, and are never tired of it. If they do ad- 
vance, they turn aside to a hundred chance ideas before they get at 
the phrase required. They let themselves be diverted by all the 
thoughts which come across them. This is what the nurse does; and 
when she brings Juliet news of her lover, she torments and wearies 
her, less from a wish to tease than from a habit of wandering from the 
point: 

* Nurse. Jesu, what haste? can you not stay awhile? 

Do you not see that I am out of breath ? 

Juliet. How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath 

To say to me that thou art out of breath! ... 

Is thy news good, or bad? answer to that ; 

Say either, and I'll stay the circumstance: 

Let me be satisfied : is't good or bad? 

N. Well, you have made a simple choice ; you know not how to choose a man: 
Romeo! no, not he; though his face be better than any man’s, yet his leg excels 
all men’s ; and for a hand, and a foot, and a body, though they be not to be talked 
on, yet they are past compare: he is not the flower of courtesy, but, I'll warrant 
him, as gentle as a lamb. Go thy ways, wench; serve God. What, have you 
dined at home? 

J. No, no: but all this did I know before. 

earner saye he of our marriage ? what of that? 


ZL 1 Romeo and Juliet, i. 3. ; " 


































320 THE RENAISSANCE. [Book IL 


NV. Lord, how my head aches! what a head have I! 
It beats as it would fall in twenty pieces. 
My back o’ t’other side,—O, my back, my back ! 
Beshrew your heart for sending me about, 
To catch my death with jaunting up and down! 
J. I’ faith, I am sorry that thou art not well. 
Sweet, sweet, sweet nurse, tell me, what says my love ? 
N. Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a courteous, and a kind, and 
a handsome, and, I warrant, a virtuous,—Where is your mother ?’! 


It is never-ending. Her gabble is worse when she comes to announce 
to Juliet the death of her cousin and the banishment of Romeo. It is 
the shrill cry and chatter of an overgrown asthmatic magpie. She 
laments, confuses the names, spins roundabout sentences, ends by asking 
for aqua-vite. She curses Romeo, them brings him to Juliet’s chamber. 
Next day Juliet is ordered to marry Earl Paris; Juliet throws herselt 
into her nurse’s arms, praying for comfort, advice, assistance. The 
other finds the true remedy: Marry Paris, 


*O, he’s a lovely gentleman ! 
Romeo’s a dishclout to him: an eagle, madam, 
Hath not so green, so quick, so fair an eye 
As Paris hath. Beshrew my very heart, 
I think you are happy in this second match, 
For it excels your first.’ * 


This cool immorality, these weather-cock arguments, this fashion of 
estimating love like a fishwoman, completes the portrait. 


Ss 


The mechanical imagination produces Shakspeare’s fool-characters: 
a quick venturesome dazzling, unquiet imagination, produces his men of 


wit. Of wit there are many kinds. One, altogether French, which is _ 


but reason, a foe to paradox, scorner of folly, a sort of incisive com- 
mon sense, having no occupation but to render truth amusing and 
evident, the most effective weapon with an intelligent and vain people: 
such was the wit of Voltaire and the drawing-rooms. The other, that 
of improvisators and artists, is a mere inventive transport, paradoxical, 
unshackled, exuberant, a sort of self-entertainment, a phantasmagoria 
of images, quibbles, strange ideas, dazing and intoxicating, like the 
’ movement and illumination of a ball. Such is the wit of Mercutio, of 
the clowns, of Beatrice, Rosalind, and Benedick. They laugh, not 
from a sense of the ridiculous, but from the desire to laugh. You 
must look elsewhere for the campaigns which aggressive reason makes 
against human folly. Here folly is in its full bloom. Our folk think 
of amusement, and nothing more. They are good-humoured; they let 


their wit ride gaily over the possible and the impossible. They play 





1 Romeo and Juliet, ii, 5. 2 Jbid. iii. 5. 





~ OHAP. IV.) SHAKSPRARE. $21 


upon words, contort their sense, draw absurd and laughable inferences, 
exchange them alternately, like shuttlecocks, one after another, and 
vie with each other in singularity and invention. They dress all their 
ideas in strange or sparkling metaphors. The taste of the time was for 
masquerades; their conversation is a masquerade of ideas, They say 
nothing in a simple style; they only seek to heap together subtle things, 
far-fetched, difficult to invent and to understand; all their expressions 
are over-refined, unexpected, extraordinary ; they strain their thought, 
and change it into a caricature. ‘ Alas, poor Romeo!’ says Mercutio, 
“he is already dead; stabbed with a white wench’s black eye; shot 
through the ear with a love-song, the very pin of his heart cleft with 
the blind bow-boy’s butt-shaft."* Benedick relates a conversation he 
has just held with his mistress: ‘O, she misused me past the endurance 
of a block! an oak, but with one green leaf on it would have answered 
her; my very visor began to assume life, and scold with her.’* These 
gay and perpetual extravagances show the bearing of the interlocutors. 
They do not remain quietly seated in their chairs, like the Marquis in 
the Misanthrope; they wheel about, leap, paint their faces, gesticulate 
boldly their ideas; their wit-rockets end with a song. Young folk, 
soldiers and artists, they let off their fireworks of phrases, and gambol 
round about. ‘There was a star danced, and under that was I born.’ * 
This expression of Beatrice’s aptly describes the kind of poetical, 
ing, unreasoning, charming wit, more akin to music than to 
_ literature, a sort of outspoken and wide-awake dream, not unlike that 
described by Mercutio : 
«0, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you. 

She is the fairies’ midwife ; and she comes 

In shape no bigger than an agate-stone 

On the fore-finger of an alderman, 

Drawn with a team of little atomies 

Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep ; 

Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs, 


The cover of the wings of grasshoppers, 
The traces of the smallest spider's web, 


The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams, 
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film, 
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat, 
Not half so big as a round little worm 
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid ; 
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut, 
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub, 
Time ont o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers, 
And in this state she gallops night by night 
lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love ; 
O'er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight, 
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees, 


1 Romeo and Juliet, ii. 4. * Much Ado about Nothing, ii, 1. * Ihe, 
x 








322 THE RENAISSANCE. 5 [Bookm — 


O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream. . . . 

Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose, 

And then dreams he of smelling out a suit ; 

And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail 

Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep, 

Then dreams he of another benefice : 

Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck, 

And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats, 

Of breaches, anibuscadoes, Spanish blades, 

Of healths five-fathom deep ; and’then anon 

Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes, * 

And being thus frighted swears a prayer or twe 

And sleeps again. This is that very Mab 

That plats the manes of horses in the night, 

And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs, 

Which once untangled much mistortune bodes. . . « 

This is she’! . . . 
Romeo interrupts him, or he would never end. Let the reader com= 
pare with the dialogue of the French theatre this little poem, 


* Child of an idle brain, 
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,’ ? 


. 
introduced without incongruity into a conversation of the sixteenth 


century, and he will comprehend the difference between the wit which 


devotes itself to reasoning, or to record a subject for laughter, and that 
imagination which is self-amused with its own act. 

Falstaff has the passions of an animal, and the imagination of a 
man of wit. There is no character which better exemplifies the dash 
and immorality of Shakspeare. Falstaff is a great supporter of dis- 
reputable places, swearer, gamester, brawler, wine-bag, as low as he 
well can be. He has a big belly, bloodshot eyes, bloated face, shaking 
leg; he spends his life huddled up among the tavern-jugs, or asleep 


on the ground behind the arras; he only wakes to curse, lie, brag, 


and steal. He is as big a swindler as Panurge, who had sixty-three 
ways of making money, ‘of which the honestest was by sly theft.’ 
And what is worse, he is an old man, a knight, a courtier, and well 
bred. Must he not be odious and repulsive? By no means; you 
cannot help liking him. At -bottom, like his brother Panurge, he is 
‘the best fellow in the world.’ He has no malice in his composition; 
no other wish than to laugh and be amused. When insulted, he bawls 
out louder than his attackers, and pays them back with interest in 
coarse words and insults; but he owes them no grudge forit. The 
next minute he is sitting down with them in a tavern, drinking their 
health like a brother and comrade. If he has vices, he exposes them 
so frankly that we are obliged to forgive him them. He seems to say 
to us: ‘ Well, so I am, what then? I like drinking: isn’t the wine 





1 Romeo and Juliet, i. 4. ® Ibid, 


er 





SHAKSPEARE. $23 




































good? I take to my heels when hard hitting begins: isn't fighting 
a nuisance? I get into debt, and do fools out of their money: isn’t 
it nice to have money in your pocket? I brag: isn’t it natural to 
want to be well thought of ?’—‘ Dost thou hear, Hal? thou knowest, 
in the state of innocency, Adam fell; and what should poor Jack 
Falstaff do in the days of villany? Thou seest I have more flesh 
than another man, and therefore more frailty.’* Falstaff is so frankly 
immoral, that he ceases to be so. Conscience ends at a certain point ; 
nature assumes its place, and the man rushes upon what he desires, 
without more thought of being just or unjust than an animal in the 
neighbouring wood. Falstaff, engaged in recruiting, has sold exemp- 
tions to all the rich people, and only enrolled starved and half-naked 
wretches. There’s but a shirt and a half in all his company: that does 
not trouble him. Bah! ‘they'll find linen enough on every hedge.’ 
The prince, who has seen them pass muster, says, ‘I did never see 
such pitiful rascals.’ ‘Tut, tut,’ answers Falstaff, ‘good enough to 
toss; food for powder; they'll fill a pit as well as better; tush, 
man, mortal men, mortal men.’* His second excuse is his unfailing 
spirit. If ever there was a man who could talk, it is he. Insults 
and oaths, curses, jobations, protests, flow from him as from an open 
barrel. He is never at a loss; he devises a shift for every difficulty. 
Lies sprout out of him, fructify, increase, beget one another, like 
mushrooms on a rich and rotten bed of earth. He lies still more 
from his imagination and nature than from interest and necessity. It 
is evident from the manner in which he strains his fictions. He says 
he has fought alone against two men. The next moment it is four. 
Presently we have seven, then eleven, then fourteen. He is stopped 
in time, or he would soon be talking of a whole army. When 
unmasked, he does not lose his temper, and is the first to laugh at 
his boastings. ‘Gallants, lads, boys, hearts of gold. . . . What, shall 
we be merry? shall we have a play extempore?’® He does the 
scolding part of King Henry with so much truth, that one might take 
him for a king, or an actor. This big pot-bellied fellow, a coward, a 
_ jester, a brawler, a drunkard, a lewd rascal, a pothouse poet, is one 
__ of Shakspeare’s favourites. The reason is, that his manners are those 
_ of pure nature, and Shakspeare’s mind is congenial with his own, 


VL 

Nature is shameless and gross amidst this mass of flesh, heavy with 
wine and fatness. It is delicate in the delicate body of women, but 
_ as unreasoning and impassioned in Desdemona as in Falstaff. Shak- 
Speare’s women are charming children, who feel in excess and love 
_ with folly. They have unconstrained manners, little rages, pretty words 
_ of friendship, coquettish rebelliousness, a graceful volubility, which 





4 First Part of King Henry IV.., iii, 3. 3 Ibid. iv. 2 3 Jbid. ii. 4. 


$24 THE RENAISSANCE. ' [Book 11. 


recall the warbling and the prettiness of birds. The heroines of the 
French stage are almost men; these are women, and in every sense 
of the word. More imprudent than Desdemona a woman could not 
be. She is moved with pity for Cassio, and asks a favour for him 
passionately, recklessly, be the thing just or no, dangerous or no. 
She knows nothing of man’s laws, and thinks nothing of them. All 
that she sees is, that Cassio is unhappy: 


* Be thou assured, good Cassio .. . My lord shall never rest ; 
I'll watch him tame and talk him out of patience ; 
His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift ; 
I'll intermingle everything he does 
With Cassio’s suit.’? 
She asks her favour: ‘ 


* Othello. Not now, sweet Desdemona ; some other time. 
Des. But shall’t be shortly? 0. The sooner, sweet, for you, 
Des. Shall’t be to-night at supper? O. No, not to-night. 
Des. To-morrow dinner, then? OQ. J shall not dine at home ; 
I meet the captains at the citadel. 
Des, Why, then, to-morrow night ; or Tuesday morn ; 
On Tuesday noon, or night ; on Wednesday morn: 
I prithee, name the time, but let it not 
Exceed three days: in faith, he’s penitent.’? 


She is somewhat astonished to see herself refused; she scolds him. 
Othello yields: who would not yield, seeing the reproach in those 
lovely sulking eyes? 0, says she, with a pretty pout: 


*This is not a boon ; 
"Tis as I should entreat you wear your gloves, 
Or feed on nourishing dishes, or keep you warm, 
Or sue to you to do a peculiar profit 
To your own person,’ 


A moment after, when he prays her to leave him alone for a while, 


mark the innocent gaiety, the ready observance, the playful child’s tone: 


‘Shall I deny you? no: farewell, my lord. .. . 
Emilia, come: Be as your fancies teach you; 
Whate’er you be, I am obedient.’ 4 


This vivacity, this petulance, does not prevent shrinking modesty and 
silent timidity: on the contrary, they spring from a common cause, 
extreme sensibility. She, who feels much and deeply, has more reserve 
and more passion than others; she breaks out or is silent; she says 
nothing or everything. Such is this Imogen, 


‘So tender of rebukes that words are strokes, 
And strokes death to her.’ 5 


4 





1 Othello, iii. 3, 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid, 
4 Ibid, 5 Cymbeline, iii. 5. 


ee 








ee: 


CHAP. IV.] SHAKSPEARE. 325 


Such is Virgilia, the sweet wife of Coriolanus: her heart is not a 
Roman one; she is terrified at her husband's victories: when Volumnia 
describes him stamping on the field of battle, and wiping his bloody 
brow with his hand, she grows pale: 
? * His bloody brow! O Jupiter, no blood!... 
Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!’* 
She would forget all that she knows of these dangers; she dare not 
think of them. When asked if Coriolanus does not generally return 
wounded, she cries, ‘O, no, no, no.’ She shuns this cruel idea, and 
nurses a secret anguish at the bottom of her heart. She will not leave 
the house: ‘I'll not over the threshold till my lord return,’* She does 
not smile, will hardly admit a visitor; she would blame herself, as for 
a lack of tenderness, for a moment's forgetfulness or gaiety. When he 
does return, she can only blush and weep. This exalted sensibility 
must needs end in love. They all love without measure, and nearly 
all at first sight. At the first look Juliet casts on Romeo, she says to 
the nurse: 
*Go, ask his name: if he be married, 
My grave is like to be my wedding bed.’* 
It is the revelation of their destiny. As Shakspeare has made them, 
they cannot but love, and they must love till death. But this first 
look is an ecstasy; and this sudden approach of love is a transport. 
Miranda seeing Fernando, fancies that she sees ‘a thing divine.’ She 
halts motionless, in the amazement of this sudden vision, at the sound 
of these heavenly harmonies which rise from the depths of her heart. 
She weeps, on seeing him drag the heavy logs; with her tender white 
hands she would do the work whilst he reposed. Her compassion and 
tenderness carry her away; she is no longer mistress of her words, she 
says what she would not, what her father has forbidden her to disclose, 
what an instant before she would never have confessed. The too full 
heart overflows unwittingly, happy, and ashamed at the current of joy 
and new sensations with which an unknown feeling has flooded her ; 
* Miranda, I am a fool to weep at what I am glad of.... 
Fernando. Wherefore weep you ? 
4M, At mine unworthiness that dare not offer 
What I desire to give, and much less take 
What I shall die to want... . 
I am your wife, if you will marry me ; 
If not, I'll die your maid.’ * 
This irresistible invasion of love transforms the whole character. The 
shrinking and tender Desdemona, suddenly, in full senate, before her 
father, renounces her father; dreams not for an instant of asking his 
pardon, or consoling him. She will leave for Cyprus with Othello, 





! Coriolanus,i.3. *Jbid. * Romeo and Juliet,i.5. * The Tempest, iii. 1. 





= “See 
oe: w 


326 THE RENAISSANCE, [BooK 11. 


through the enemy’s fleet and the tempest. Everything vanishes before 
the one and adored image which has taken entire and absolute posses- 
sion of her full heart. So, extreme evils, bloody resolves, are only the 
natural sequence of such love. Ophelia becomes mad, Juliet commits 
suicide; no one but looks upon such madness and death as necessary. 
You will not then discover virtue in these souls, for by virtue is im- 
plied a determinate desire to do good, and a rational observance of duty. 


They are only pure through delicacy or love. They recoil from vice as — 


a gross thing, not as an immoral thing. What they feel is not respect 
for the marriage vow, but adoration of their husband. ‘O sweetest, 
fairest lily!’ So Cymbeline speaks of one of these frail and lovely 
flowers which cannot be torn from the tree to which they have grown, 
whose least impurity would tarnish their whiteness. When Imogen 
learns that her husband means to kill her as being faithless, she does 
not revolt at the outrage; she has no pride, but only love. ‘False to 
his bed!’ She faints at the thought that she is no longer loved. 
When Cordelia hears her father, an irritable old man, already half 
insane, ask her how she loves him, she cannot make up her mind to say 
aloud the flattering protestations which her sisters have been lavishing. 
She is ashamed to display her tenderness before the world, and to buy 
a dowry by it. He disinherits her, and drives her away ; she holds her 
tongue. And when she afterwards finds him abandoned and mad, she 
goes on her knees before him, with such a touching emotion, she weeps 
over that dear insulted head with so gentle a pity, that you might 
fancy it was the tender accent of a desolate but delighted mother, 
kissing the pale lips of her child: 
*O you kind gods, 

Cure this great breach in his abused nature! 

The untuned and jarring senses, O, wind up 

Of this child-changed father! ... 

O my dear father! Restoration hang 

Thy medicine on my lips ; and let this kiss 

Repair those violent harms that my two sisters 

Have in thy reverence made! . . . Was this a face 

To be opposed against the warring winds ? 

. . - Mine enemy’s dog, 

Though he had bit me, should have stood that night 

Against my fire. . 

How does my royal lord? How fares your majesty ?’! 

If, in fact, Shakspeare comes across a heroic character, worthy of 
Corneille, a Roman, such as the mother of Coriolanus, he will explain 
by passion, what Corneille would have explained by heroism. He will 
depict it violent and eager with the violent feelings of glory. She will 
not be able to refrain herself. She will break out into accents of 
triumph when she sees her son crowned ; into imprecations of vengeance 





_} King Lear, iv. 7. 





nn 








omar. 1v,] _ SHAKSPEARE, 327 


when she sees him banished. She will descend to the vulgarities of 
pride and anger; she will abandon herself to mad effusions of joy, to 
dreams of an ambitious fancy,’ and will prove once more that the im- 

passioned imagination of Shakspeare has left its trace in all the creatures 
whom he has made, 


VIL. 


Nothing is easier to such a pvet than to create perfect villains. 
Throughout he is handling the unruly passions which make their 
character, and he never hits upon the moral law which restrains them; 
but at the same time, and by the same faculty, he changes the inani- 
mate masks, which the conventions of the stage mould on an identical 
pattern, into living and illusory figures. How shall a demon be made 
to look as real asa man? Iago is a soldier of fortune who has roved 
the world from Syria to England, who, nursed in the lowest ranks, | 
having had close acquaintance with the horrors of the wars of the 
sixteenth century, had drawn thence the maxims of a Turk and the 
philosophy of a butcher; principles he has none left. ‘O my reputa- 
tion, my reputation!’ cries the dishonoured Cassio, ‘ As I am an honest 
man,’ says lago, ‘I thought you had received some bodily wound; 
there is more sense in that than in reputation.’* As for woman's 
virtue, he looks upon it like a man who has kept company with slave- 
dealers. He estimates Desdemona’s love as he would estimate a mare’s: 
that sort of thing lasts so long—then... And then he airs an 
experimental theory, with precise details and nasty expressions, like a 
stud doctor. ‘It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her 
love to the Moor, nor he his to her. . . . These Moors are changeable 
in their wills; . . . the food that to him now is as luscious as locusts, 
shall be to him shortly as bitter as colonquintida. She must change 
for youth: when she is sated with his body, she will find the error 
of her choice.’* Desdemona, on the shore, trying to forget her care, 
begs him to sing the praises of her sex. For every portrait he finds 
the most insulting insinuations. She insists, and bids him take the case 
of a really perfect woman. He replies: ‘She was a wight, if ever such 





1 *O ye're well met : the hoarded plague o” the gods 
Requite your love! 
If that I could for weeping, you should hear— 
Nay, and you shall hear some. . . . 
I'll tell thee what ; yet go: 
Nay, but thou shalt stay too: I would my son 
Were in Arabia, and thy tribe before him, 
His good sword in his hand.’—Coriolanus, iv. 2. 
See again, Coriolanus, i. 3, the frank and abandoned triumph of a woman of the 
people: ‘I sprang not more in joy at first hearing he was a man-child than now 
in first seeing he had proved himself a man.’ 
* Othello, ii. 3. . ® Ibid, i. 3, 


328 THE RENAISSANCE. [BOOK II. 


wight were, ... to suckle fools and chronicle small beer.’ He 
also says: ‘O gentle lady, do not put me to’t; for I am nothing, if 
not critical.’* This is the key to his character. He despises man; to 
him Desdemona is a little wanton wench, Cassio an elegant word-shaper, 
Othello a mad bull, Roderigo an ass to be basted, thumped, made to 
go. He diverts himself by setting these passions at issue; he laughs 
at it as at a play. When Othello, swooning, shakes in his convulsions, 
he rejoices at this capital result: ‘Work on, my medicine, work! 
Thus credulous fools are caught.’* You would take him for one of 
the poisoners of the time, studying the effect of anew potion on a dying 
dog. He only speaks in sarcasms; he has them ready for every one, 
even for those whom he does not know. When he wakes Brabantio to 
inform him of the elopement of his daughter, he tells him the matter 
in coarse terms, sharpening the sting of the bitter pleasantry, like a 
conscientious executioner, rubbing his hands when he hears the culprit 
groan under the knife. ‘Thou art a villain!’ cries Brabantio. ‘You are 
—a senator!’ answers Tago. But the feature which really completes 
him, and makes him rank with Mephistopheles, is the atrocious truth 
and the cogent reasoning by which he likens his crime to virtue.* 
Cassio, under his advice, goes to see Desdemona, to obtain her inter- 
cession for him; this visit is to be the ruin of Desdemona and Cassio. 
Iago, left alone, hums for an instant quietly, then cries: 

* And what’s he then that says I play the villain? 

When this advice is free I give and honest, 

Probal to thinking and indeed the course “ 

To win the Moor again.”® 
To all these features must be added a diabolical energy,® an inexhaus- 
tible inventiveness in images, caricatures, obscenity, the manners of a. 
guard-room, the brutal bearing and tastes of a trooper, habits of dis- 
simulation, coolness and hatred, patience, contracted amid the perils 
and devices of a military life, and the continuous miseries of long 
degradation and frustrated hope; you will understand how Shakspeare 
could transform abstract treachery into a concrete form, and how 
Iago’s atrocious vengeance is only the natural consequence of his 
character, life, and training, 


VIIE. 


How much more visible is this impassioned and unfettered genius 
of Shakspeare in the great characters which sustain the whole weight 
of the drama! The startling imagination, the furious velocity of the 
manifold and exuberant ideas, the unruly passion, rushing upon death 





— ee ee 


1 Othello, ii. 1. 2 Ibid. 5 Ibid. iv. 1. 

* See the like cynicism and scepticism in Richard 111. Both begin by slander- 
ing human nature, and both are misanthropical of malice prepense. 

5 Othello, ii. 8. 


6 See his conversation with Brabantio, then with Roderigo, Act i 











omar. 1vJ ' SHAKSPEARE. 329 


and crime, hallucinations, madness, all the ravages of delirium burst- 
ing through will and reason: such are the forces and ravings which 
engender them. Shall I speak of dazzling Cleopatra, who holds 
Antony in the whirlwind of her devices and caprices, who fascinates 
and kills, who scatters to the winds the lives of men as a handful of 
desert-dust, the fatal Eastern sorceress who sports with life and death, 
headstrong, irresistible, child of air and fire, whose life is but a tem- 
pest, whose thought, ever repointed and broken, is like the crackling 
of a lightning flash? Of Othello, who, beset by the concise picture of 
physical adultery, cries at every word of Iago like a man on the rack; 
who, his nerves hardened by twenty years of war and shipwreck, grows 
mad and swoons for grief, and whose soul, poisoned by jealousy, is dis- 
tracted and disorganised in convulsions and in stupor? Or of old 
King Lear, violent and weak, whose half-unseated reason is gradually 
toppled over under the shocks of incredible treacheries, who presents 
the frightful spectacle of madness, first increasing, then complete, ot 
curses, howlings, superhuman sorrows, into which the transport of the 
first access of fury carries him, and then of peaceful incoherence, chat- 
tering imbecility, into which the shattered man subsides: a marvellous 
creation, the supreme effort of pure imagination, a disease of reason 
which reason could never have conceived?! Amid so many portraitures 
let us choose two or three to indicate the depth and nature of them 
all. The critic is lost in Shakspeare, as in an immense town; he will 
describe a couple of monuments, and entreat the reader to imagine 
the city. 

Plutarch’s Coriolanus is an austere, coldly haughty patrician, a 
general of the army. In Shakspeare’s hands he becomes a coarse 
soldier, a man of the people as to his language and manners, an 
athlete of war, with a voice like a trumpet; whose eyes by contradic- 
tion are filled with a rush of blood and anger, proud and terrible in 
mood, a lion’s soul in the body of a steer. The philosopher Plutarch 
told of him a lofty philosophic action, saying that he had been at pains 
to save his landlord in the sack of Corioli. Shakspeare’s Coriolanus 
has indeed the same disposition, for he is really a good fellow; but 
when Lartius asks him the name of this poor Volscian, in order to 
secure his liberty, he yawns out: 

* By Jupiter! forgot. 
I am weary ; yea, my memory is tired. 
Have we no wine here? '* 

He is hot, he has been fighting, he must drink; he leaves his 
Volscian in chains, and thinks no more of him. He fights like a 
porter, with shouts and insults, and the cries from that deep chest are 


1 See, again, in Timon, and Hotspur more particularly, a perfect example of a 
vehement and unreasoning imagination. 
* Coriolanus, i. 9. 





_—_ 


330 THE RENAISSANCE. _ [Book 1. 


heard above the din of the battle like the sounds from a brazen trumpet. 
He has scaled the walls of Corioli, he has butchered till he is gorged 
with slaughter. Instantly he turns to the other army, and arrives red 
with blood, ‘as he were flay’d.’ ‘Come I too late?’ Cominius begins 
to compliment him. ‘Come I too late?’ he repeats. The battle is 
not yet finished: he embraces Cominius: 


*O! let me clip ye 
In arms as sound as when I woo’d, in heart 
As merry as when our nuptial day was done.’? 


For the battle is a real holiday to him. Such senses, such a frame, need 
the outcry, the din of battle, the excitement of death and wounds. This 


haughty and indomitable heart needs the joy of victory and destruction. — 


Mark the display of his patrician arrogance and his soldier’s bearing, 
when he is offered the tenth of the spoils: 
*I thank you, general ; 
But cannot make my heart consent to take 
A bribe to pay my sword.’? 


The soldiers cry, Marcius! Marcius! and the trumpets sound. He gets 
into a passion ; rates the brawlers : 


‘No more, Isay! For that I have not wash’d 
My nose that bled, or foil’d some debile wretch, — 
... You shout me forth 
In acclamations hyperbolical ; 
As if I loved my little should be dieted | 
In praises sauced with lies.’ * 


They are reduced to loading him with honours: Cominius gives him a 
' war-horse; decrees him the cognomen of Coriolanus: the people shout 
Caius Marcius Coriolanus! He replies: 
‘I will go wash ; 
And when my face is fair, you shall perceive _ 
Whether I blush or no: howbeit, I thank you. 
I mean to stride your steed.’* 


This loud voice, loud laughter, blunt acknowledgment of a man who 
can act and shout better than speak, foretell the mode in which he will 
treat the plebeians. He loads them with insults; he cannot find abuse 
enough for the cobblers, tailors, greedy cowards, down on their knees for 
a copper. ‘To beg of Hob and Dick!’ ‘Bid them wash their faces and 
keep their teeth clean.’ But he must do this, if he would be consul; 
his friends constrain him. It is then that the passionate soul, incapable 
of self-restraint, such as Shakspeare knew how to paint, breaks forth 
without let. He is there in his candidate’s gown, gnashing his teeth, 
and getting up his lesson in this style: 





1 Coriolanus, i. 6. 2 Tbid. i. 9. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 





* What must I say? 
“T pray, sir"—Plague upon’t! I cannot bring